Skip to main content

Full text of "The life of Abraham Lincoln : drawn from original sources and containing many speeches, letters and telegrams hitherto unpublished, and illustrated with many reproductions from original paintings, photographs, et cetera"

See other formats




the class of 1901 

founded by 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 







MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 




The LIFE of 


DRAWN from original SOURCES 
and containing many SPEECHES, 

hitherto unpublished, and illustrated 
with many reproductions from original 
Paintings, Photographs, et cetera 
New Edition with New Matter 



Volume One 

New York 
The Macmillan Company 


All rights reserved 

Copyright, 1895, 1896, 1898, 1899 
By The S. S. McClure Co. 

Copyright, 1900 
By Doubleday & McClure Co. 

Copyright, 1900 
By McClure, Phillips & Co. 


Copyright, 19 1 7 

By The Macmillan Company 


v. I 


To my Father 


The work here offered the public was begun in 1894 at 
the suggestion of Mr. S. S. McClure and Mr. J. S. Phillips, 
editors of " McClure's Magazine." Their desire was to add 
to our knowledge of Abraham Lincoln by collecting and pre- 
serving the reminiscences of such of his contemporaries as 
were then living. In undertaking the work it was deter- 
mined to spare neither labor nor money and in this deter- 
mination Mr. McClure and his associates have never wa- 
vered. Without the sympathy, confidence, suggestion and 
criticism which they have given the work it would have been 
impossible. They established in their editorial rooms what 
might be called a Lincoln Bureau and from there an or- 
ganized search was made for reminiscences, pictures and 
documents. To facilitate the work all persons possessing 
or knowing of Lincoln material were asked through the 
Magazine to communicate with the editor. The response 
was immediate and amazing. Hundreds of persons from 
all parts of the country replied. In every case the clews 
thus obtained were investigated and if the matter was found 
to be new and useful was secured. The author wrote thou- 
sands of letters and travelled thousands of miles in collecting 
the material which came to the editor simply as a result of 
this request in the magazine. The work thus became one in 
which the whole country co-operated. 

At the outset it was the intention of the editors to use the 
results of the research simply as a series of unpublished rem- 



iniscences, but after a few months the new material gath- 
ered, while valuable seemed to them too fragmentary to be 
published as it stood, and the author was asked to prepare a 
series of articles on Lincoln covering his life up to 1858 and 
embodying as far as possible the unpublished material col- 
lected. These articles, which appeared in " McClure's 
Magazine " for 1895 and 1896, were received favorably, and 
it was decided to follow them by a series on the later life of 
Lincoln. This latter series was concluded in September, 
1899, and both series, with considerable supplementary mat- 
ter, are published in the present volumes. 

It is impossible in this brief preface to mention all who 
have aided in the work, but there are a few whose names 
must not be omitted, so essential has their assistance been to 
the enterprise. 

From the beginning Mr. J. McCan Davis of Springfield, 
Illinois, has been of great service, particularly in examining 
the files of Illinois newspapers and in interviewing. It is to 
Mr. Davis's intelligent and patient research that we owe the 
report of Lincoln's first published speech, the curious letters 
on the Adams law case, most of the documents of Lincoln's 
early life in New Salem and Springfield, such as his first 
vote, his reports and maps of surveys, his marriage certifi- 
cate and many of the letters printed in the appendix. Mr. 
William H. Lambert of Philadelphia has also assisted us 
constantly by his sympathy and suggestions, and his large 
and valuable Lincoln collection has been freely at our dis- 
posal. Other collections that have been generously opened 
are those of O. H. Oldroyd of Washington, R. T. 
Durrett, Louisville, Ky., C. F. Gunther, Chicago, 111., and 
Louis Vanuxem, Philadelphia, Pa. The War Department 
of the United States Government has extended many cour- 
tesies, the War Records being freely opened and the mem- 
bers of the War Records Commission aiding us in every way 


in their power. The librarians of the War Department, of 
the Congressional Library, of the Boston Public Library and 
of the Astor Library of New York, have also been most 

The chief obligation which any student of Abraham Lin- 
coln owes is to the great work of Messrs. Nicolay and Hay. 
In it are collected nearly all the documents essential to a 
study of Lincoln's life. Their History has been freely con- 
sulted in preparing this work and whenever letters and 
speeches of Lincoln appearing in their collection of his 
writings have been quoted, their version has been followed. 
Other lives of Lincoln that have been found useful are those 
of W. H. Herndon, W. O. Stoddard, John T. Morse, Isaac 
Arnold, Ward H. Lamon, H. C. Whitney, and J. G. 

The new material collected will, we believe, add con- 
siderably to our knowledge of Lincoln's life. Docu- 
ments are presented establishing clearly that his mother 
was not the nameless girl that she has been so generally 
believed. His father, Thomas Lincoln, is shown to have 
been something more than a shiftless " poor white," and 
Lincoln's early life, if hard and crude, to have been full of 
honest, cheerful effort at betterment. His struggles for a 
livelihood and his intellectual development from the time he 
started out for himself until he was admitted to the bar are 
traced with more detail than in any other biography, and 
considerable new light is thrown on this period of his life. 
The sensational account of his running away from his own 
wedding, accepted generally by historians, is shown to be 
false. To the period of Lincoln's life from 1849, when he 
gave up politics, until 1858, the period of the Lincoln and 
Douglas Debates, the most important contribution made is 
the report of what is known as the " Lost Speech." 

The second volume of the Life contains as an appendix 


196 pages of letters, telegrams and speeches which do not 
appear in Lincoln's " Complete Works," published by his 
private secretaries Messrs. Nicolay and Hay. The great 
majority of these documents have never been published at 
all. The source from which they have been obtained is 
given in each case. 

No attempt has been made to cover the history of Lin- 
coln's times save as necessary in tracing the development 
of his mind and in illustrating his moral qualities. It is 
Lincoln the man, as seen by his fellows and revealed by his 
own acts and words, that the author has tried to picture. 
This has been the particular aim of the second series of 


I. M. T. 


In the 17 years since the first edition of this book appeared, 
a continuous stream of new material relating more or less 
directly to Abraham Lincoln has been flowing to the public. 
In the years 1908 and 1909 this stream swelled to river pro- 
portions, fed by the interest in the centenary of his birth. 

One splendid fact outranks all others in this wealth of fresh 
contributions — Our new knowledge leaves us the Lincoln 
we had at the beginning ; the man revealed not only to this 
country but to the world by the tragedy of April, 1865, has 
not been materially changed by fifty years' study. His pre- 
eminence holds in spite of an increasing knowledge of points 
at which he failed. We know him better, but we reverence 
and love him no less. 

He is to-day our national touch-stone as well as the source 
to which liberal statesmen of all lands look for the most perfect 
understanding and expression of the spirit and aims of Democ- 

The new materials which have left us our old Lincoln in- 
clude some of the most notable contributions to our knowl- 
edge of him. First should be placed the diary of Gideon 
Welles, probably the greatest personal historical narrative 
yet produced in this country. After Welles come the Reminis- 
cences of Carl Schurz, supplemented by eight volumes of his 
Public Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers. The 
Gettysburg edition of Lincoln's Complete Works, a revision of 
the original edition edited by Nicolay & Hay, belongs in the 
list, so do Thayer's " Life of John Hay " and Newton's study 
of Lincoln and Herndon, two recent contributions of im- 



portance, for the fresh material they contain. The stream 
continues. At this writing there is soon to be published a 
collection of over 300 letters of Lincoln, not to be found in the 
Gettysburg edition. This collection, which we owe to the 
devotion of Mr. Gilbert Tracy, of Putnam, Conn., contains 
at least two score pieces of first rank. 

The collections of Lincolniana have increased not merely in 
size but in intelligent arrangement and selection. When this 
book was prepared, the chief collection was that of Major 
W. H. Lambert, who died on June 1, 191 2. It was a mis- 
fortune that it was scattered. Happily, a number of pieces 
have gone to swell the gatherings of one of Mr. Lambert's 
chief competitors, Mr. Judd Stewart of Plainfield, N. J. Mr. 
Stewart now has a collection that includes 97 per cent of all 
known publications. Lincoln lovers should see to it that it 
does not meet the fate of Major Lambert's. 

The collection of original Lincoln letters and documents 
owned by Mr. Robert Lincoln, including practically all of the 
manuscripts, letters, and papers published by Nicolay & Hay 
in the first edition of the "Complete Works," is of supreme 
importance. It is to be hoped that Mr. Lincoln will one day 
place this collection in the Congressional Library beside the 
originals of the papers of Washington, Madison, Jefferson, 
Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, Pierce, Johnson, 
Harrison, and Cleveland. 1 Those who own Lincoln manu- 
scripts could not do better than to arrange as speedily as 
possible to give them whenever Mr. Lincoln shall decide to 
place those in his possession. 

A steady stream of interpretation has run parallel to the 
stream of new materials, much of it commonplace, but not a 
little of real understanding. The most interesting, in the 
writer's judgment, has just come to the public, — Mr. George 
Barnard's statue of Lincoln. This work has already started 
1 The papers of Harrison and Cleveland are still held as confidential. 


a very fundamental discussion. To my own mind it does 
something that nobody else has done so well in any medium : 
it gives a sense of the profundity of the man — a sense of 
what one discerning observer on first seeing it called, "his 
spiritual resolution." 

The test of the value of these recent contributions is what 
they add to our understanding of Abraham Lincoln and of the 
situation in which he found himself. That is much. They 
unquestionably enlarge Lincoln, clear up our view of him. 
They put down the strength and the weakness of him over and 
over again. The result is that we know him better and can 
judge him more fairly both as man and leader. 

What this new material has done for Lincoln it has done for 
the scheme of things under which he was obliged to act. 
There has been so far no experience in our national life which 
has so demonstrated where this scheme holds up and where it 
falls down as the Civil War. That episode shows quite clearly 
where we can expect more from our form of government than 
from others, and also where we are in danger of getting less. 

Possibly the best thing we can say of the scheme is that it 
gave us Lincoln. It is very unlikely that any other form of 
government that the world has yet tried could by peaceful 
means have developed his particular genius ; that is, it would 
not have been at once fully available for a crisis under any 
other form of government. His talent would not have had 
the peculiar kind of training which made him so fit for the 
tasks thrust upGn him. 

In this new material his failures are emphasized, particularly 
in Welles's narrative. The exhibit there is the more impressive 
because it is more or less unconscious on Welles's part, and 
because from the start he believed that Lincoln was, as he 
says, "a gentle, good and great man." The impression that 
one who had not studied the history of the Civil War with 
Lincoln's own letters and speeches in hand would get from 


Welles's narrative is that of a man stumbling through a 
quagmire, pretending to lead, but really clinging to the coat 
tails of his Secretary of State. 

Welles's portrait of Seward is true, if one-sided. He is 
naturally over insistent of the worst side of Seward, since it 
constantly thwarted and hindered him. Seward's meddle- 
someness, his opportunism, his overwhelming desire to have 
Washington, particularly the Army and Navy and diplomatic 
Washington, believe that he was running the government, 
constantly irritated Welles. He was a busy-body and in- 
triguer, who muddled things for everybody. The Lincoln of 
Welles's narrative does not see this, nor understand that he is 
being handled by a mind really inferior to his own. Yet we 
know from Lincoln's letters that he discovered Seward's pro- 
pensity before any of his colleagues, and that he had in writing 
in less than a month after the Inauguration put him in his 

Mr. Seward knew Lincoln as his master, but he took good 
care that nobody but Lincoln should know that he so recog- 
nized him. His colleagues, Congress, the country, grew in 
the conviction that Lincoln was being bullied and deceived. 
Lincoln's own influence was lessened in many quarters as this 
conviction grew. Behind this apparent weakness was in 
reality strength. It was one of his ways of working out his 
chief value to the country, and that value was his clear sense 
from the start that it was our democratic scheme that was at 
stake, and that if it was to be saved, every man who could aid 
must be helped to give all that was in him. 

Nothing will ever be discovered which will add to the 
perfect form into which he crystallized this deepest thing in 
his soul in the Gettysburg speech, but a multitude of recent 
details show how the idea guided him in handling men 
and led him to put aside in cases like Seward's his natural 
resentment and hurt pride. 


He seems to have put it something like this to himself: 
" Everybody in the country has had a part in bringing this 
thing about ; everybody feels he has a right to say how things 
shall be handled ; everybody that is worth his salt is going to 
exercise that right, and he is going to do it according to the 
kind of man he is — according to his temperament, his train- 
ing, his self-control, his meanness, and his goodness. If we 
are going to put this thing through and prove that men can 
govern themselves, we must get from them what they can 
give, and we must let them give it in their own way." 

What this meant for him in practice was a shrewd calculation 
of how much he must put up with, how far he could safely go in 
allowing himself to be misjudged as in Seward's case, insulted 
as by McClellan, abused as by Greeley, sneered at as by the 
military authorities. 

Men close to Lincoln at the time, and men reading history 
since, have wondered why he refused to publish the whole of 
his correspondence with Greeley over the peace fiasco at 
Niagara Falls in July, 1864. Greeley characteristically 
blamed Lincoln for the failure. The correspondence would 
have cleared him, but it would have shown that Greeley 
had lied. Moreover, it would have shown that Greeley was 
willing to sacrifice everything for Peace. In Lincoln's judg- 
ment that would have been "a disaster equal to the loss of a 
great battle." It would have been pulling a prop out from 
the Union Cause. It was better that he himself should be 
misunderstood and abused than that confidence in the Editor 
of the Tribune should be lost. 

It was quite as much calculation as large-mindedness that 
made him keep so carefully from his colleagues the preposter- 
ous suggestions of Mr. Seward in April, 1 861, to invite a Euro- 
pean War and to take over the government. To have allowed 
this to leak out even to members of his cabinet would have 
weakened the Secretary. What he wanted was to minimize 


as much as possible the harmful effect of Seward's effort to 
give to everybody the notion that it was he and not Mr. 
Lincoln who was at the head of affairs. 

The more one knows of his handling of similar, if less con- 
spicuous cases, the greater the respect for his native talent for 
understanding men, and for the exercise he had given it 
through his life. He read men of all kinds ; he had always 
had the habit of reading them. His sympathy for human 
nature made him understand numbers of things that the un- 
sympathetic, self-centred, however highly trained, never see. 
He seems to have had as nearly a universal human sympathy 
as any one in history. A man could not be so high or so low 
that Lincoln could not meet him. He could not be so much 
of a fool, or so many kinds of a fool. He could listen unruffled 
to cant, to violence, to criticism, just and unjust. Amazingly 
he absorbed from each the real thing he had to offer, annexed 
him by showing him that he understood, and yet gave him 
somehow a sense of the impossibility of considering him alone, 
and leaving out the multitudes of other men, as convinced and 
as loyal. 

Mr. Lincoln shows this admirably in the way he held that 
buoyant young radical idealist, Carl Schurz, to him. Schurz 
was the most romantic figure in the country. His service in 
making clear just what all the trouble was about, his passion 
for the Union as well as his hatred of slavery, Lincoln valued 
highly; but Schurz had the overconfidence of the young 
revolutionist. It was he who knew most and best. In his 
zeal for freedom he was prone to suspect the motives of others, 
particularly if they did not agree with him. Recently pub- 
lished letters of Schurz make a beautiful picture of wisdom, 
reflection, and experience handling and saving to the cause 
the ardent, self-confident assertive spirit of idealistic youth. 

Just as Lincoln won and held this fiery young Teuton revo- 
lutionist, he held Sumner, the most highly trained and cul- 


tivated radical of the time, the one in the country who came 
nearest to a high type of English cultivation. He seems to 
have been able to attach the superior of each kind to him. 

A more delicate task than Schurz or Sumner or Seward 
was getting something from the large group who wanted to 
save the Union, but were unwilling that Lincoln should have 
a hand in the saving. It was willing to go to any lengths to 
throw contempt on his policies. In spite of the danger that 
beset the Union, in spite of the fact that Lincoln was for the 
time being leader, they were determined to demonstrate his 
unfitness by making it impossible for him to solve any prob- 
lem. This revolting and discouraging feature of party govern- 
ment never showed itself in a more hateful form than during 
the Civil War. All of the new material makes clear what a 
sad exhibit a free press can make of itself in times of great 
public calamity. Editors and writers are expected to report 
and interpret public events. In 1861 they immediately and 
without preparation set themselves up also as military experts 
and authorities on international law. They made up in 
intolerance and noisy insistence what they lacked in knowl- 

What was true of the press was true of all of the organized 
agencies for influencing the public. They were all for saving 
the Union, but saving it each in his own way, and when that 
way differed from that of Mr. Lincoln and his colleagues, 
they were not for helping him to clearer and better ways, but 
for hindering to the utmost of their ajbility. 

Lincoln's greatness of mind, as well as the profundity of his 
understanding of the democratic scheme, come out finally in 
his attitude towards these efforts to hinder his policies. He of 
course had had political experience which made him expect 
the average man in the opposition to feel free to ridicule, 
thwart, and ruin his efforts. He was not their man. But I 
doubt if Lincoln could have realized how the silliness, 

xviii PREFACE 

obstinacy, selfishness, and vindictiveness which the party 
system arouses and justifies even in first-rate minds, would 
show themselves in men who were committed to him in the 
effort to save the Union. 

One loud and insistent criticism was that he was filling 
places of importance with Democrats. Schurz voiced this 
criticism as eloquently as anybody and had the manliness to 
put it directly to the President. His first letter was in the 
fall of 1862, just after the election. The administration had 
fared badly. Schurz wrote Lincoln, "The defeat of the ad- 
ministration is the administration's own fault. 

"It admitted its professed opponents to its counsels. It 
placed the Army, now a great power in this Republic, into the 
hands of its enemies. In all personal questions to be hostile 
to the party of the Government seemed to be a title to con- 
sideration. It forgot the great rule, that, if you are true to 
your friends, your friends will be true to you, and that you 
make your enemies stronger by placing them upon an equality 
with your friends. Is it surprising that the opponents of the 
administration should have got into their hands the govern- 
ment of the principal States after they have had for so long a 
time the principal management of the war, the great business 
of the National Government? ,, 

Lincoln's reply to this letter was first published in 1913 in 
Schurz's papers. In the course of it he says: "The plain 
facts, as they appear to me, are these. The administration 
came into power, very largely in a minority of the popular 
vote. Notwithstanding this, it distributed to its party 
friends as nearly all the civil patronage as any administration 
ever did. The war came. The administration could not 
even start in this, without assistance outside of its party. 
It was mere nonsense to suppose a minority could put down 
a majority in rebellion. Mr. Schurz (now Gen. Schurz) was 
about here then, and I do not recollect that he then considered 


all who were not republicans, were enemies of the government, 
and that none of them must be appointed to military positions. 
He will correct me if I am mistaken. It so happened that 
very few of our friends had a military education or were of the 
profession of arms. It would have been a question whether 
the war should be conducted on military knowledge, or on 
political affinity, only that our own friends (I think Mr. 
Schurz included) seemed to think that such a question was 
inadmissable. Accordingly I have scarcely appointed a demo- 
crat to a command, who was not urged by many republicans 
and opposed by none. It was so as to McClellan. He was 
first brought forward by the Republican Governor of Ohio & 
claimed, and contended for at the same time by the Repub- 
lican Governor of Pennsylvania. I received recommenda- 
tions from the republican delegations in Congress, and I 
believe every one of them recommended a majority of demo- 
crats. But, after all, many Republicans were appointed ; and 
I mean no disparagement to them when I say I do not see 
that their superiority of success has been so marked as to 
throw great suspicion on the good faith of those who are not 

This did not entirely settle the matter with Schurz. His 
ardor led him to write a long, defensive reply. It drew from 
Lincoln an admirable answer, published many years ago. 
Schurz probably had in mind this correspondence when in his 
thoughtful essay on Lincoln he wrote, " There are men now 
living who would to-day read with amazement if not regret 
what they then ventured to say or write to him." 

The climax of this episode, so revealing of the man, is given 
by Schurz in his Reminiscences. Two or three days after Mr. 
Lincoln's second letter, a special messenger came to the Gen- 
eral, asking him to come to Washington as soon as his duties 
would permit. Schurz went at once. He describes what 
happened. "Mr. Lincoln was seated in an arm-chair before 


the open-grate fire, his feet in gigantic morocco slippers. He 
greeted me cordially as of old and bade me pull up a chair and 
sit by his side. Then he brought his large hand with a slap 
down on my knee and said with a smile : ' Now tell me, 
young man, whether you really think that I am as poor 
a fellow as you hav.e made me out in your letter.' I must 
confess, this reception disconcerted me. I looked into his 
face and felt something like a big lump in my throat. After 
a while I gathered up my wits and after a word of sorrow, if 
I had written anything that could have pained him, I explained 
to him my impressions of the situation and my reasons for 
writing to him as I had done. He listened with silent atten- 
tion and when I had stopped, said very seriously: 'Well, I 
know that you are a warm anti-slavery man and a good friend 
to me. Now let me tell you all about it.' Then he unfolded 
in his peculiar way his view of the then existing state of affairs, 
his hopes and his apprehensions, his troubles and embarrass- 
ments, making many quaint remarks about men and things. 
I regret I cannot remember all. Then he described how the 
criticisms coming down upon him from all sides chafed him, 
and how my letter, although containing many points that were 
well founded and useful, had touched him as a terse summing- 
up of all the principal criticisms and offered him a good chance 
at me for a reply. Then, slapping my knee again, he broke 
out in a loud laugh and exclaimed : ' Didn't I give it to you 
hard in my letter ? Didn't I ? But it didn't hurt, did it ? I 
did not mean to, and therefore I wanted you to come so 

He had to meet the incessant charge that he was playing 
the dictator. Equally he had to meet the cry that what we 
needed was a dictator. Lincoln's attitude toward both is 
particularly worth considering at this moment, and it is in 
admirable keeping with his large, tolerant, humorous sense of 
men and things. 


It is quite clear that he was not afraid of the people mis- 
understanding him when he exercised powers, however un- 
usual, that he thought essential to the sing ] e aim he had in 
view — the saving of the Union. He stated his policy in 
regard to the measures to be taken to suppress the revolution 
in his first annual message to Congress : "The Union must be 
preserved ; and hence all indispensable means must be em- 
ployed. We should not be in haste to determine that radical 
and extreme measures, which may reach the loyal as well as 
the disloyal, are indispensable." 

If these "extreme measures" were in his judgment indis- 
pensable, he used them serenely. "It is said, the devil takes 
care of his own," he wrote in one case ; "much more should a 
good spirit — the spirit of the Constitution and the Union — 
take care of its own. I think it cannot do less and live." 

This thesis he held until the end — re-expressing it again 
and again, but never more forcibly or pungently than in 
defending the arrest of Vallandigham. 

"If I be wrong on this question of constitutional power, 
my error lies in believing that certain proceedings are con- 
stitutional when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public 
safety requires them, which would not be constitutional 
when, in absence of rebellion or invasion, the public safety 
does not require them : in other words, that the Constitu- 
tion is not in its application in all respects the same in 
cases of rebellion or invasion involving the public safety, as 
it is in times of profound peace and public security. The 
Constitution itself makes the distinction, and I can no more 
be persuaded that the government can constitutionally take 
no strong measures in time of rebellion because it can be 
shown that the same could not be lawfully taken in time 
of peace, than I can be persuaded that a particular drug 
is not good medicine for a sick man because it can be 
shown not to be good food for a well one. Nor am I able 


to appreciate the danger apprehended by the meeting, that 
the American people will by means of military arrests during 
the rebellion lose the right of public discussion, the liberty 
of speech and the press, the law of evidence, trial by jury, 
and habeas corpus throughout the indefinite peaceful future 
which I trust lies before them, any more than I am able to 
believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for 
emetics during temporary illness as to persist in feeding upon 
them during the remainder of his healthful life.'' 

It was in the army that the demand for a dictator cropped 
up most frequently, and Lincoln expressed his attitude toward 
it best in a letter to Hooker written at the time he appointed 
him to supersede Burnside. It is not a new letter, but at this 
particular time it has a new ring. The President had told 
Hooker frankly what he considered the General's good points, 
and equally frankly he followed this list with what he con- 
sidered the General's weaknesses, and added : 

"I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently 
saying that both the army and the government needed a 
dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, 
that I have given you the command. Only those generals 
who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of 
you is military success and I will risk the dictatorship." 

It would be difficult to find anywhere a better putting of 
the attitude of the people in a democracy towards powerful 
men whom they have put into positions of responsibility. 
One can almost hear the people of the United States saying 
to-day as Lincoln heard them say it : " Go ahead and give us 
victory and we will risk the dictatorship." 

It is possible that Lincoln was less prepared for the vindictive 
intrigues within his own household than for the embarrass- 
ments which meddlesomeness like Seward's or criticism like 
Schurz's caused him. He was never a vindictive man. 
All his life he had studiously avoided quarrels. Some very 

PREFACE xxiii 

interesting expressions in regard to this have come out in this 
material of the last ten years. There is a new letter in the 
Tracy collection written in 1845 when the nomination to 
Congress in his district was in dispute. Because of past 
promises, Lincoln thought it should go to him. His friend 
Harden was inclined to break the compact. Lincoln was 
willing to fight, but not to the point of quarrel, and he cau- 
tioned his friends, "It will be just all we can do to keep out of 
a quarrel. " That was always a first consideration — not to 

He had ample reason in the war to see that this trait was 
unusual. He thought it singular, Hay heard him say the 
night they were receiving the election returns of 1864, that 
he who was not a vindictive man should have always been 
before the people for election in canvasses marked for their 
bitterness. He evidently had the same idea in mind when 
that same night he said to Assistant Secretary of the Navy 
Fox, who was rejoicing over the defeat of two especially bitter 
enemies of the administration, " You have more of that 
feeling of personal resentment than I. Perhaps I may have 
too little of it, but I never thought it paid. A man has not 
time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to 
attack me, I never remember the past against him." 

I doubt very much if Lincoln was prepared for the explosive 
and vindictive quality which several of his colleagues showed. 
Stanton was one of these. There is no question that Stanton 
attempted to minimize failures in the Army by exaggerating 
the failures of the Navy, underestimating its success, and 
over-estimating its failure. Lincoln took his measure early, 
and was able to get from him the best he had to give. 

Welles's story of the panic Stanton aroused in the President 
over the Merrimac shows well how his mind worked in his 
dealings with such men. Stanton had a horrible scare over 
the Confederate boat. He was sure that it was going to 


destroy the entire navy of the North and lay every coast city 
under contributions, but before it did this, it would destroy 
Washington and disperse Congress. 

In his fright, going over Mr. Welles's head, Stanton actually 
advised that the Boston and New York ports, as well as the 
Potomac, should be plugged up by sinking stone boats. The 
boats were under preparation for closing the Potomac when Mr. 
Welles, learning it, came to the White House. He found there 
that Stanton had ordered fifty or sixty canal boats loaded with 
stone to be sunk in the channel. Lincoln had sanctioned this 
order. Welles explained to Mr. Lincoln that there was no 
reason to suppose that the Merrimac could get over the shoals ; 
moreover that as the chief concern so far in the war had 
been to keep the river open for the sake of the Army of the 
Potomac, to close it permanently might be much more serious 
than a visit from the Merrimac. Lincoln's common-sense 
reasserted itself, and his scare seems to have calmed. He real- 
ized at once both the folly and impropriety of what Stanton 
had led him into. Later he settled Stanton's interference with 
the navy by one of his incomparable remarks. The President 
and a party of the cabinet were going down the river a few days 
after the episode, when they passed the sixty or so stone-loaded 
boats which Mr. Stanton had ordered out, and which Lincoln's 
lucky return to common-sense had side-tracked. "That is 
Stanton's navy," Lincoln said ; "it is useless as the paps of a 
man to a sucking child. There may be some show to amuse 
the child, but they are good for nothing for service." 

He lived in a world of intrigue. That a man who himself 
was so incapable of intrigue should have been able so to sense 
what the men whom he gathered into his cabinet, and before 
whom he was really humble, were about is an unending marvel. 
But he did understand them, and the legitimate cunning with 
which he could handle a serious intrigue when it came to the 
last phase is a pure intellectual joy. 


A vivid picture of this is given in the entries in Welles's 
Diary, tracing the resentment against Seward, which crystal- 
lized at the end of 1862 by an almost unanimous vote in the 
Republican caucus that the President should be asked to re- 
move him. When Seward's friends informed him, he was 
overwhelmed with surprise. With the fatuity of the over- 
ambitious man he had not suspected how obvious his manoeu- 
vres were both to his colleagues in the administration and to 
Washington in general. A goodly body of members of Con- 
gress had come to the point where they felt that it was their 
duty to protest against what they believed was his too great 
influence over the President. This, says Welles, "was the 
point and pith of their complaint. " Surprised, chagrined, 
but quite big enough to understand that it was a matter for 
the President, he sent in his resignation. Mr. Lincoln was 
perplexed. He felt that the action of the senators who were 
conducting this matter was an interference with executive 
authority which must not be countenanced. He told Welles 
that if it succeeded, the whole government "could not stand, 
could not hold water ; the bottom would be out." But since 
he felt it his supreme duty to hold everybody to the cause, he 
was unwilling to antagonize any more than possible the group 
demanding that Seward should go. 

He heard them ; he talked with all concerned ; he soon 
discovered that there had been considerable influence exerted 
against Seward by members of his own cabinet; somebody 
there had complained of Seward's practice of discouraging 
regular cabinet meetings and of holding back information 
from the members when it did meet, of his pose of settling 
things independently of the President and his associates. 
Lincoln, in the general airing of things which he conducted, 
came to see that certainly Mr. Chase and possibly Mr. Stan- 
ton had had something to do with stirring up the trouble. 

In the excitement some one suggested that the whole cabinet 


resign. Welles refused. This was no time, in his judgment, 
to make things worse by such an exodus, but it was entirely 
in keeping that Stanton and Chase should bring their resigna- 
tions. Welles pictures in his diary the extraordinary mo- 
ment when Lincoln saw with lightning rapidity his way out. 
Chase had informed the President that he had prepared his 
resignation. " ' Where is it ? ' said the President quickly, his 
eye lighting up in a moment. 1 1 brought it with me,' said 
Chase, taking the paper from his pocket ; 1 1 wrote it this 
morning.' ' Let me have it,' said the President, reaching his 
long arm and fingers towards Chase, who held on, seemingly 
reluctant to part with the letter, which was sealed, and which 
he apparently hesitated to surrender. Something further he 
wished to say, but the President was eager and did not perceive 
it, but took and hastily opened the letter. 

" ' This,' said he, looking towards me with a triumphal 
laugh, ' cuts the Gordian knot.' An air of satisfaction 
spread over his countenance such as I had not seen for some 
time. ' I can dispose of this subject now without diffi- 
culty/ he added, as he turned on his chair ; * I see my way 

"Chase sat by Stanton, fronting the fire; the President 
beside the fire, his face towards them, Stanton nearest him. 
I was on the sofa near the east window. While the President 
was reading the note, which was brief, Chase turned round 
and looked towards me, a little perplexed. He would, I 
think, have been better satisfied could this interview with the 
President have been without the presence of others, or at 
least if I was away. The President was so delighted, that he 
saw not how others were affected. 

"'Mr. President,' said Stanton, with solemnity, 'I in- 
formed you day before yesterday that I was ready to tender 
my resignation. I wish you, sir, to consider my resignation 
at this time in your possession.' 

PREFACE xxvii 

" ' You may go to your department,' said the President ; ' I 
don't want yours. This,' holding Chase's letter, l is all I 
want; this relieves me; my way is clear; the trouble is 
ended. I will detain you no longer.' " 

Nobody understood what it meant. They all went off 
reluctantly and perplexedly, Chase obviously feeling that 
the President was going to turn both him and Seward out. 
He had assisted in preparing a boomerang for himself. 
This was clear enough two days later when the President an- 
nounced that Mr. Seward and Mr. Chase had resigned their 
portfolios, but that he had asked them to continue at their 
posts. Everybody was taken by surprise. It was not part 
of the intrigue that Chase should resign, and his friends, 
who had been insisting on Seward's going, were particularly 

It was this quality of divining the elements of an intrigue 
and of almost instantaneously putting his finger on the spring 
which would loosen it that is most astonishing in a man of 
Lincoln's temperament and training. 

The part that humor played in handling these situations 
cannot, I think, be overestimated. It was a part of the man, 
as natural as his melancholy, or his necessity of seeing things 
clearly and stating them so that everybody could understand. 
It bubbled up through things like one of those warm springs 
that one sometimes comes upon in a rugged, rocky field. The 
way it explained, cleared up, settled, is almost unbelievable. 
It puts humor higher among human powers than any other 
exhibit, so far as I know. This is partly because it was so 
kind ; not that it was without satire. There was much, but 
usually it was a clear, friendly light. It found its expression 
in common things, the expression of the man to whom all 
human exhibits, all physical things are clean, to whom nothing 
is coarse or wrong that is natural. 

His zest in things, in everything, one might say, counted for 

xxviii PREFACE 

much in all these difficulties. It is to mistake Lincoln to 
over-emphasize his melancholy and his travail of spirit. That 
they were his constant companions is true, but they were not 
alone, or did they dominate his soul. His enormous interest 
in life and men held them under. This unflagging curiosity 
and sympathy made him the most likable of men. Thayer, 
by his excellent use of Hay's letters and diary, has succeeded 
in giving a fresh and delightful impression of his lovable- 
ness. The very titles by which Hay and Nicolay spoke of the 
President — the "Ancient," the " Tycoon" — hint at their 
affection. The little descriptions Hay drops of Lincoln taking 
a hearty part in everyday happenings are particularly reveal- 
ing. Those of us who have learned our Lincoln from the 
books have hardly pictured him as Hay does, dishing out oys- 
ters at a late informal supper, or as sitting in a private box at 
a concert with his gay young secretary carrying on a " hefty 
flirtation with the M girls in the flies" ! ! 

Hay's appreciation of the goodness and bigness of him grew 
constantly. He realized, if many others did not, the firmness 
of the hand on the wheel. "The Tycoon is in fine whack. 
I have rarely seen him more serene and busy. He is managing 
this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a recon- 
struction of the Union, all at once. I never knew with what a 
tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet till now. The most 
important things he decides, and there is no cavil," and then : 
"What a man it is ! Occupied all day with matters of vast 
moment, deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest army 
of the world, with his own plans and future hanging on the 
events of the passing hour, he yet has such a wealth of simple 
bonhomie and good fellowship that he gets out of bed and 
perambulates the house in his shirt to find us, that we may 
share with him the fun of poor Hood's queer little conceits." 

It has always been difficult for those unfortunate people 
who regard education as possible only through schools and 


social contacts to understand how Lincoln was able without 
college training or travel to understand so thoroughly the 
thought and opinion of all sections of the country. As a 
truth, there was nobody who understood so well how all the 
people were thinking or why they thought as they did. These 
people will find a clew to their puzzle not only in Newton's 
detailed study of the intellectual activities of Lincoln and his 
law partner Herndon in the years preceding the war, but in a 
still more recent volume of personal reminiscences of unusual 
character by Henry B. Rankin of Springfield, Illinois. Mr. 
Rankin was in the office of the firm from 1850 to 1861. He 
says that as he looks back on this experience the circumstance 
which most impresses him is the way in which Lincoln and 
Herndon steadfastly kept the political affairs of the whole 
nation under attention ; using all sources, and in their private 
conferences and discussions with each other, reviewing and 
sifting all conflicting opinions on national questions that 
came to their office table from North and South, East and 

" Had they foreseen the political and executive battles 
before Mr. Lincoln, his preparation could not have been more 
thorough, exact, and comprehensive to fit him for his Presi- 
dency in 1861-65. It was his wish that led to their subscrib- 
ing for Southern papers and periodicals, and he was a more 
diligent reader of these than his partner. The latter had first 
supplied the office table with the leading Abolitionist papers 
of the North. It was their first discussions on the extreme 
opinions which Northern papers presented, that brought the 
Southern views represented in the Southern papers to the 
office table. This was Mr. Lincoln's suggestion and choice, 
for, as he then expressed it, 'Let us have both sides on our 
table. Each is entitled to its day in court.' 

"Besides the full use of all the Illinois State Journal's 
exchanges, they took regularly at the office, up to the closing 


of southern mails by the Confederate States in 1861, the 
Charleston Mercury, the Richmond Enquirer, and the Louis- 
ville Journal, also the Southern Literary Messenger, an able 
monthly political and literary magazine, formerly edited by 
Edgar A. Poe, and later by Hon. J. R. Thompson. This was a 
periodical of unusual ability, published at Richmond, Virginia, 
and he gave no periodical that came to the office the attention 
he did to this. He had preserved an accumulation of these 
Southern Literary Messengers on top of one of the office 
presses, and he directed my attention to them a few weeks 
before setting out for Washington, while sorting up odds and 
ends about the office, saying he wished me to take charge of 
and have them bound and kept for him until his return to the 
office life again, which he often spoke of as being his intention. 
This I did, and they are now in my library." 

The soundness of Lincoln's education becomes more and 
more clear, the more we know of the man. It is true he had no 
training in handling men or affairs in an orderly fashion. He 
did not know what system meant. So far as delegating tasks, 
or seeing that things were kept ship-shape, he was still in the 
White House the New Salem postmaster, who carried the 
mail in his hat, the Springfield lawyer whose idea of filing was 
tersely revealed in the legend attached to a bundle of his 
papers, "When you can't find it, anywhere else, look into 

Lincoln never had any desire to impose his way of doing 
things upon other men. He never saw them as parts of a 
machine which he was to run. He liked to talk with them 
as the spirit moved, and he felt that way about his cabinet. 
It was very difficult throughout his administration to hold 
regular meetings. This probably was less his than Seward's 
fault, but it was his fault that he did not overrule Seward. 
There was always around the White House a great deal of 
back-stair gossip, of intrigue, confusion, and contradictory 


orders, a great deal of encroaching by Seward and Stanton 
on other departments, all of which might have been avoided 
by a more vigorous administrating hand. The kind of thing 
Mr. Lincoln was doing was vastly more important than the 
kind of thing which he did not do, but what he did not do 
caused confusion and gave opportunity for the intriguers. It 
often bewildered the country. The average man thinks, if the 
machine is running smoothly, that there is a power and pur- 
pose and wisdom behind. The power and purpose and wisdom 
were behind, but the confusion sometimes obscured them. 
With a little more training this might have been avoided. 

The indictments brought against Lincoln for inefficient 
administration, for interfering with the army, for going 
beyond strict executive powers, have backing. It is curious, 
however, how little these things affect our judgment of him. 
They leave him where he has long been in the popular mind. 
Possibly they leave him greater, since we see how he did in the 
end dominate without the aid of the conventional training 
which would have prevented many mistakes. These things 
have no more effect on our judgment of him as a states- 
man than the insistent effort that has been made to prove that 
he or his mother was born out of wedlock, or that he ran away 
from his own wedding, have on our opinion of him as a man. 
One must want to believe both of these charges very badly in 
order to set aside the mass of evidence against them. That 
is, they both seem to have been built up so far mainly on a 
desire to believe, rather than on trustworthy evidence. 

But supposing they are true, it makes no difference in our 
reverence for the man. It no more changes our opinion of him 
than it changes our feeling for Washington to be told that 
he could fly into a passionate rage and curse like a pirate. 
Though failing at many points as an administrator, Lincoln 
still remains the great leader. Though there are possible slips 
in his life, he is still the great man and the great gentleman. 

xxxii PREFACE 

Through him more than through any other man yet devel- 
oped in this country we are coming to realize what it means to 
be a useful leader in a democracy. The more one knows of 
him the better one understands how fully the scheme must be 
accepted if a man is to succeed with the people. Lincoln 
actually believed that popular government was practical. 
He actually listened to the people. He knew them so well 
that he understood what they said when he listened. He 
knew that he could not fool them in the long run, and he never 
tried to do so. Democracy to him was a series of practical 
truths, things to do as well as to say. His faith stood the test 
of his terrible experiences in the Civil War. Perhaps no man 
ever had more reason for disillusionment with men and their 
institutions, but to the end he kept his faith in both, and he 
left behind an achievement and an expression which is so far 
the world's best guide in government by the people. 



I. The Origin of the Lincoln Family — The Lincolns in 

Kentucky — Birth of Abraham Lincoln i 

II. The Lincolns leave Kentucky for Southern Indiana — 

Conditions of life in their new home - - 18 

III. Abraham Lincoln's early opportunities— The books he 

read — Trips to New Orleans — Impression he made on 

his friends - - - 39 

IV. The Lincolns leave Indiana — The journey to Illinois- 

Abraham Lincoln starts out for himself - - 45 

V. Lincoln secures a position — He studies grammar — First 

appearance in politics ----- 59 

VI. The Black Hawk war—Lincoln chosen captain of a 
company — Re-enlists as an independent ranger — End 
of the war ------ 73 

VII. Lincoln runs for State assembly and is defeated— Store- 
keeper— Student — Postmaster— Surveyor - 89 
VIII. Electioneering in Illinois in 1834— Lincoln reads law- 
First term as assemblyman— Lincoln's first great 
sorrow ------- I0 g 

IX. Lincoln is re-elected to the Illinois assembly — His first 
published address— Protests against pro-slavery reso- 
lutions of the assembly ----- 124 

X. Lincoln begins to study law — Mary Owens — A news- 
paper contest— Growth of political influence - - 147 













Lincoln's engagement to Mary Todd— -Breaking of the 
engagement — Lincoln-Shields duel - 

Lincoln becomes a candidate for Congress and is de- 
feated—On the stump in 1844 — Nominated and 
elected to the 30th Congress - 

Lincoln in Washington in 1847 — He opposes the Mexi- 
can war — Campaigning in New England 

Lincoln at Niagara — Secures a patent for an inven- 
tion — Abandons politics and decides to devote him- 
self to the law ------ 

Lincoln on the circuit — His humor and persuasiveness 
— His manner of preparing cases, examining wit- 
nesses, and addressing juries - - - - 

Lincoln's important law cases — Defence of a slave girl 
—The McCormick case — The Armstrong murder 
case — The Rock Island bridge case 

Lincoln re-enters politics - 

The Lincoln-Douglas debates 

Lincoln's nomination in i860 

The campaign of i860 • 

Mr. Lincoln as President-elect - • 










Abraham Lincoln Frontispiece 

The Home of Abraham Lincoln, Grandfather of the President. 

facing 4 

Facsimile of Will of Joseph Hanks facing 6 

Map of New Salem, Illinois 9 

Facsimile of the Marriage Bond of Thomas Lincoln 11 

Return of Marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks 12 

Facsimile of the Appointment of Thomas Lincoln as Road Sur- 
veyor 13 

Two Views of Rock Spring Farm facing 16 

House in which Abraham Lincoln was Born facing 20 

Facsimile of the Record of the Lincoln Family Made by Abraham 

Lincoln in the Family Bible 23 

Thomas Lincoln's Bible facing 28 

Fragment from a Leaf of Lincoln's Exercise-book 31 

Facsimile of Lines from Lincoln's Copy-book 42 

The Grave of Nancy Hanks facing 46 

The Kirkham's Grammar Used by Lincoln at New Salem, .facing 64 
Map Showing Lincoln's Supposed Line of March in Black Hawk 

War 85 

Facsimile of a Letter Written by Lincoln 97 

Facsimile of a Report of a Road Survey by Lincoln 102 

Facsimile of a Map made by Lincoln of Road in Menard County, 

Illinois 103 

Grave of Ann Rutledge in Oakland Cemetery facing 1 16 

Facsimile of a Map of Albany, Illinois, Made by Lincoln 131 




Map of Illinois, Illustrating a System of Internal Improvements, 

1834 135 

Facsimile of Page from Stuart & Lincoln's Fee Book 154 

Facsimile of Invitation to a Springfield Cotillion Party 171 

Facsimile of Marriage License and Certificate of Abraham Lin- 
coln , 191 

The Earliest Portrait of Abraham Lincoln facing 208 

Thomas Lincoln's Home in Illinois facing 222 

Lincoln's Device for Lifting Vessels over Shoals facing 226 

Facsimile of Map of Circuit which Lincoln Travelled in Practising 

Law , , 243 

Facsimile of a Lincoln Memorandum 250 

Lincoln's Office Book-case, Chairs, and Ink-stand facing 258 

The Lincoln and Douglas Meeting at Galesburg, Illinois, October 

7, 1858 facing 304 

Lincoln in 1858 facing 316 

Lincoln in February, i860, at the Time of the Cooper Institute 

Speech facing 326 

Lincoln in the Summer of i860 facing 340 

Chair Occupied by the Chairman of the Republican National Con- 
vention of i860 348 

The Wigwam facing 352 

Lincoln in 1 860 facing 374 

Lincoln Home, Springfield, Illinois facing 380 

Sarah Bush Lincoln facing 408 







Between the years 1635 and 1645 there came to the town 
of Hingham, Massachusetts, from the west of England, eight 
men named Lincoln. Three of these, Samuel, Daniel, and 
Thomas, were brothers. Their relationship, if any, to the 
other Lincolns who came over from the same part of Eng- 
land at about the same time, is not clear. Two of these men, 
Daniel and Thomas, died without heirs; but Samuel left a 
large family, including four sons. Among the descendants 
of Samuel Lincoln's sons were many good citizens and 
prominent public officers. One was a member of the Boston 
Tea Party, and served as a captain of artillery in the War of 
the Revolution. Three served on the brig Hazard during 
the Revolution. Levi Lincoln, a great-great-grandson of 
Samuel, born in Hingham in 1749, and graduated from Har- 
vard, was one of the minute-men at Cambridge immediately 
after the battle of Lexington, a delegate to the convention in 
Cambridge for framing a state constitution, and in 1781 was 
elected to the continental congress, but declined to serve. 
He was a member of the house of representatives and of the 
senate of Massachusetts, and was appointed attorney-general 
of the United States by Jefferson ; for a few months preced- 
ing the arrival of Madison he was secretary of state, and in 
1807 he was elected lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts. 


In 1811 he was appointed associate justice of the United 
States Supreme Court by President Madison, an office which 
he declined. From the close of the Revolutionary war he 
was considered the head of the Massachusetts bar. 

His eldest son, Levi Lincoln, born in 1782, had also an 
honorable career. He was a Harvard graduate, became 
governor of the state of Massachusetts, and held other im- 
portant public offices. He received the degree of LL. D. 
from both Williams College, and Harvard College. 

Another son of Levi Lincoln, Enoch Lincoln, served in 
congress from 18 18 to 1826. He became governor of Maine 
in 1827, holding the position until his death in 1829. Enoch 
Lincoln was a writer of more than ordinary ability. 

The fourth son of Samuel Lincoln was called Mordecai. 
Mordecai was a rich " blacksmith," as an iron-worker was 
called in those days, and the proprietor of numerous iron- 
works, saw-mills, and grist-mills, which with a goodly 
amount of money he distributed at his death among his child- 
ren and grandchildren. Two of his children, Mordecai and 
Abraham, did not remain in Massachusetts, but removed to 
New Jersey, and thence to Pennsylvania, where both became 
rich, and dying, left fine estates to their children. Their de- 
scendants in Pennsylvania have continued to this day to be 
well-to-do people, some of them having taken prominent 
positions in public affairs. Abraham Lincoln, of Berks 
county, who was born in 1736 and died in 1806, filled many 
public offices, being a member of the general assembly of 
Pennsylvania, of the state convention of 1787, and of the 
state constitutional convention in 1 790. 

One of the sons of this second Mordecai, John, received 
from his father " three hundred acres of land, lying in the 
Jerseys." But evidently he did not care to cultivate his in- 
heritance, for about 1758 he removed to Virginia. "Vir- 
ginia John," as this member of the family was called, had 


five sons one of whom, Jacob, entered the Revolutionary 
army and served as a lieutenant at Yorktown. The third 
son was named Abraham and to him his father conveyed, 
in 1773, a tract of 210 acres of land in what is now Rocking- 
ham county, Virginia. But though Abraham Lincoln pros- 
pered and added to these acres he was not satisfied to remain 
many years in Virginia. It was not strange. The farm on 
which he lived lay close to the track of one of the earliest of 
those wonderful western migrations which from time to 
time have taken place in this country. Soon after John 
Lincoln came into Virginia vague rumors began to be cir- 
culated there of a rich western land called Kentucky. These 
rumors rapidly developed into facts, as journeys were made 
into the new land by John Finley, Daniel Boone and other 
adventure-loving men, and settlers began to move thither 
from Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. There 
were but two roads by which Kentucky could be reached 
then, the national highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburg 
and thence by the Ohio, and the highway which ran from 
Philadelphia south-westward through the Virginia valley to 
Cumberland Gap and thence by a trail called the Wilderness 
Road, northwest to the Ohio at Louisville. The latter road 
was considered less dangerous and more practical than the 
former and by it the greater part of the emigrants journeyed. 
Now this road lay through Rockingham county. Abraham 
Lincoln was thus directly under the influence of a moving 
procession of restless seekers after new lands and unknown 
goods. The spell came upon him and, selling two hundred 
and forty acres of land in Rockingham County for five thou- 
sand pounds of the current money of Virginia — a sum worth 
at that time not more than one hundred and twenty-five 
pounds sterling — he joined a party of travelers to the Wil- 
derness. Returning a few months later he moved his whole 
family, consisting of a wife and five children, into Kentucky. 


Abraham Lincoln was ambitious to become a landed pro- 
prietor in the new country, and he entered a generous amount 
of land — four hundred acres on Long run, in Jefferson 
county ; eight hundred acres on Green river, near the Green 
river lick ; five hundred acres in Campbell county. He settled 
near the first tract, where he undertook to clear a farm. It 
was a dangerous task, for the Indians were still troublesome, 
and the settlers, for protection, were forced to live in or near 
forts or stations. In 1784, when John Filson published his 
" History of Kentucky," though there was a population of 
thirty thousand in the territory, there were but eighteen 
houses outside of the stations. Of these stations, or stock- 
ades, there were but fifty-two. According to the tradition 
in the Lincoln family, Abraham Lincoln lived at Hughes Sta- 
tion on Floyd creek in Jefferson county. 

All went well with him and his family until 1788. Then, 
one day, while he and his three sons were at work in their 
clearing, an unexpected Indian shot killed the father. His 
death was a terrible blow to the family. The large tracts of 
land which he had entered were still uncleared, and his per- 
sonal property was necessarily small. The difficulty of reach- 
ing the country at that date, as well as its wild condition 
made it impracticable for even a wealthy pioneer to own 
more stock or household furniture than was absolutely es- 
sential. Abraham Lincoln was probably as well provided 
with personal property as most of his neighbors. The in- 
ventory of his estate, now owned by R. T. Durrett, LL. D., 
of Louisville, Kentucky, was returned by the appraisers on 
March 10, 1789. It gives a clearer idea of the condition in 
which he left his wife and children, than any description 
could do: 

£ 8. d 

1 Sorrel horse 8 

1 Black horse 9 10 

I Red cow and calf ..., 4 10 






I Brindle cow and calf 

1 Red cow and calf 

I Brindle bull yearling 

I Brindle heifer yearling 

Bar spear-plough and tackling 

3 Weeding hoes 

Flax wheel »...., 

Pair smoothing irons 

1 Dozen pewter plates 

2 Pewter dishes .* 

Dutch oven and cule, weighing 15 lbs. . . 
Small iron kettle and cule, weighing 12 lbs. 

Tool adds .... 

Hand saw 

One-inch auger 

Three-quarter auger 

Half-inch auger 



Currier's knife and barking-iron 

Old smooth-bar gun 

Rifle gun 

Rifle gun 

2 Pott trammels 

1 Feather bed and furniture 


1 Bed and turkey feathers and furniture... 

Steeking-iron I 6 

Candle-stick I 6 

1 Axe • 

^68 1 6s 6d 

■SSBBBH »l l . » l S3 

Soon after the death of Abraham Lincoln, his widow 
moved from Jefferson county to Washington county. Here 
the eldest son, Mordecai, who inherited nearly all of the large 
estate, became a well-to-do and popular citizen. The deed- 
book of Washington county contains a number of records of 
lands bought and sold by him. At one time he was sheriff 
of his county and according to a tradition of his descend- 
ants a member of the Kentucky legislature. His name is not 


































to be found however in the fullest collection of journals of 
the Kentucky legislature which exists, that of Dr. R. T. 
Durett of Louisville, Kentucky. Mordecai Lincoln is re- 
membered especially for his sporting tastes, his bitter hatred 
of the Indians and his ability as a story-teller. He remained 
in Kentucky until late in life, when he removed to Hancock 
County, Illinois. 

Of Josiah, the second son, we know very little more than 
that the records show that he owned and sold land. He left 
Kentucky when a young man, to settle on the Blue river, in 
Harrison County, Indiana, and there he died. The two 
daughters married into well-known Kentucky families; the 
elder, Mary, marrying Ralph Crume; the younger, Nancy, 
William Brumfield. 

The death of Abraham Lincoln was saddest for the young- 
est of the children, a lad of ten years at the time, named 
Thomas, for it turned him adrift to become a " wandering 
laboring-boy " before he had learned even to read. Thomas 
seems not to have inherited any of the father's estate, and 
from the first to have been obliged to shift for himself. For 
several years he supported himself by rough farm work of 
all kinds, learning, in the meantime, the trade of carpenter 
and cabinet-maker. According to one of his acquaintances, 
" Tom had the best set of tools in what was then and now 
Washington County," and was " a good carpenter for those 
days, when a cabin was built mainly with the axe, and not a 
nail or bolt-hinge in it; only leathers and pins to the door, 
and no glass/' Although a skilled craftsman for his day, 
he never became a thrifty or ambitious man. " He would 
work energetically enough when a job was brought to him, 
but he would never seek a job." But if Thomas Lincoln 
plied his trade spasmodically, he shared the pioneer's love for 
land, for when but twenty-five years old, and still without 
the responsibility of a family, he bought a farm in Hardin 


County, Kentucky. This fact is of importance, proving as it 
does that Thomas Lincoln was not the altogether shiftless 
man he has been pictured. Certainly he must have been 
above the grade of the ordinary country boy, to have had the 
energy and ambition to learn a trade and secure a farm 
through his own efforts by the time he was twenty-five. He 
was illiterate, never doing more " in the way of writing 
than to bunglingly write his own name." Nevertheless, he 
had the reputation in the country of being good-natured and 
obliging, and possessing what his neighbors called " good 
strong horse-sense/' Although he was a " very quiet sort 
of a man," he was known to be determined in his opinions, 
and quite competent to defend his rights by force if they were 
too flagrantly violated. He was a moral man, and, in the 
crude way of the pioneer, religious. 

In 1806 Thomas Lincoln married. The early history of 
his wife, Nancy Hanks, has been until recently obscured by 
contradictory traditions. The compilation of the genealogy 
of the Hanks family in America, which has been completed 
by Mrs. Caroline Hanks Hitchcock, though not yet printed, 
has fortunately cleared up the mystery of her birth. Ac- 
cording to the records which Mrs. Hitchcock has gathered 
and a brief summary of which she has published in a valuable 
little volume called " Nancy Hanks," the family to which 
Thomas Lincoln's wife belonged first came to this country in 
1699 and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

This early settler, Benjamin Hanks, had eleven children, 
one of whom, William, went to Virginia, settling near the 
mouth of the Rappahannock river. William Hanks had five 
sons, four of whom, about the middle of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, moved to Amelia County, Virginia, where, according 
to old deeds unearthed by Mrs. Hitchcock, they owned nearly 
a thousand acres of land. Joseph Hanks, the youngest of 
these sons, married Nancy Shiplev. This Miss Shipley was 


a daughter of Robert and Rachel Shipley of Lurenburg 
County, Virginia, and a sister of Mary Shipley, who married 
Abraham Lincoln of Rockingham County, and who was the 
mother of Thomas Lincoln. 

About 1789 Joseph Hanks and a large number of his rela- 
tives in Amelia County moved into Kentucky, where he set- 
tled near what is now Elizabethtown. He remained here 
until his death in 1793. Joseph Hanks's will may still be seen 
in the county records of Bardstown. He leaves to each of his 
sons a horse, to each of his daughters a " heifer yearling/' 
though these bequests, as well as the " whole estate " of one 
hundred and fifty acres of land was to be the property of his 
wife during her life, when it was to be divided equally 
among all the children. 

Soon after Joseph Hanks's death his wife died and the 
family was scattered. The youngest of the eight children left 
fatherless and motherless by the death of Joseph Hanks and 
his wife was a little girl called Nancy. She was but nine 
years old at the time and a home was found for her with her 
aunt, Lucy Shipley, wife of Richard Berry, who had a farm 
in Washington county, near Springfield. Nancy had a large 
number of relatives near there, all of whom had come from 
Virginia with her father. The little girl grew up into a 
sweet-tempered and beautiful woman whom tradition paints 
not only as the center of all the country merry-making but as 
a famous spinner and housewife. 

It was probably at the house of Richard Berry that 
Thomas Lincoln met Nancy Hanks, for he doubtless spent 
more or less time nearby with his oldest brother, Mordecai 
Lincoln, who was a resident of Washington County and a 
friend and neighbor of the Berry's. He may have seen her, 
too, at the home of her brother, Joseph Hanks, in Elizabeth- 
town. This Joseph Hanks was a carpenter and had in- 
herited the old home of the family and it was with him that 

^Itf/j.^O.f/, AW , )/t sKVI , 



Drawn for this biography by J. McCann Davis, aided by surviving inhabitants 
of New Salem. Dr. John Allen, who lived across the road from Berry & Lincoln's 
store, attended Ann Rutledge in her last illness. None of the buildings are in 
existence to-day. 


Thomas Lincoln learned his trade. At all events, the two 
cousins became engaged and on June 10, 1806, their mar- 
riage bond was issued according to the law of the time. 
Two days later according to the marriage returns of the Rev- 
erend Jesse Head, they were married, — a fact duly attested 
also by the marriage certificate made out by the officiating 

The marriage took place at the home of Richard Berry, 
near Beechland in Washington County, Kentucky. It was 
celebrated in the boisterous style of one hundred years ago, 
and was followed by an infare, given by the bride's guardian. 
To this celebration came all the neighbors, and, according 
to an entertaining Kentucky centenarian, Dr. Christopher 
Columbus Graham, even those who happened in the neigh- 
borhood were made welcome. He tells how he heard of the 
wedding while " out hunting for roots," and went " just to 
get a good supper. I saw Nancy Hanks Lincoln at her wed- 
ding," continues Mr. Graham, " a fresh looking girl, I should 
say over twenty. I was at the infare, too, given by John H. 
Parrott, her guardian — and only girls with money had 
guardians appointed by the court. We had bearmeat ; . . . 
venison; wild turkey and ducks; eggs, wild and tame, so 
common that you could buy them at two bits a bushel ; maple 
sugar, swung on a string, to bite off for coffee or whiskey; 
syrup in big gourds ; peach-and-honey ; a sheep that the two 
families barbecued whole over coals of wood burned in a 
pit, and covered with green boughs to keep the juice in ; and 
a race for the whiskey bottle." 

After his marriage Thomas Lincoln? settled in Elizabeth- 
town. His home was a log cabin, but at that date few peo- 
ple in the state had anything else. Kentucky had been in the 
union only fourteen years. When admitted, the few brick 
structures within its boundaries were easily counted, and 
there were only log school-houses and churches. Fourteen 




! O 



^ I sj> .J N 







From a tracing of the original, made by Henry Whitney Cleveland. This certificate was discovered aboui 
1885 by W. F. Booker, Esq., Clerk of Washington County, Kentucky. 


years had brought great improvements, but the majority of 
the population still lived in log cabins, so that the home of 
Thomas Lincoln was as good as most of his neighbors. Lit- 
tle is known of his position in Elizabethtown, though we have 
proof that he had credit in the community, for the descend- 
ants of two of the early store-keepers still remember seeing 
on their grandfathers' account books sundry items charged 
to T. Lincoln. Tools and groceries were the chief purchases 
he made, though on one of the ledgers a pair of " silk sus- 
penders," worth one dollar and fifty cents, was entered. He 
not only enjoyed a certain credit with the people of Eliza- 
bethtown ; he was sufficiently respected by the public authori- 
ties to be appointed in 1816 a road surveyor, or, as the office 


U t&^/**&^fasfo ***- "**^2>^f jfc*^ feet******- <&^ e/^J^L 


is known in some localities, supervisor. It was not, to be 
sure, a position of great importance, but it proved that he was 
considered fit to oversee a body of men at a task of consider- 
able value to the community. Indeed, all of the documents 
mentioning Thomas Lincoln which have been discovered 
show him to have had a much better position in Hardin 
county than he has been credited with. 

It was at Elizabethtown that the first child of the Lincolns, 
a daughter, was born. Soon after this event Thomas Lit. 
coin decided to combine farming with his trade, and moved 


to the farm he had bought in 1803 on the Big South fork of 
Nolin creek, in Hardin County, now La Rue County, three 
miles from Hodgensville, and about fourteen miles from 
Elizabethtown. Here he was living when, on February 12, 
1809, his second child, a boy, was born. The little new- 
comer was called Abraham, after his grandfather— a name 
which had persisted through many preceding generations in 
both the Lincoln and Hanks families. 

The home into which the child came was the ordinary one 
of the poorer western pioneer — a one-roomed cabin with a 
huge outside chimney, a single window, and a rude door. 
The description of its squalor and wretchedness, which are 
so familiar, have been overdrawn. Dr. Graham, than whom 
there is no better authority on the life of that day, and who 
knew Thomas Lincoln well, declares energetically that "It is 
all stuff about Tom Lincoln keeping his wife in an open shed 
in a winter. The Lincolns had a cow and calf, milk and 
butter, a good feather bed — for I have slept on it. They had 
home- woven 'kiverlids,' big and little pots, a loom and wheel. 
Tom Lincoln was a man and took care of his wife." 

The Lincoln home was undoubtedly rude, and in many 
ways uncomfortable, but it sheltered a happy family, and its 
poverty affected the new child but little. He grew to be 
robust and active and soon learned how endless are the de- 
lights and interests the country offers to a child. He had 
several companions. There was his sister Nancy, or Sarah 
— both names are given her — two years his senior ; there was 
a cousin of his mother's, ten years older, Dennis Friend 
(commonly called Dennis Hanks), an active and ingenious 
leader in sports and mischief ; and there were the neighbors' 
boys. One of the latter, Austin Gollaher, lived to be over 
ninety years of age and to his death related with pride 
how he played with young Lincoln in the shavings of his 


father's carpenter shop, hunted coons and ran the woods with 
him, and once even saved his life. 

" Yes," Mr. Gollaher was accustomed to say, " the story 
that I once saved Abraham Lincoln's life is true. He and I 
had been going to school together for a year or more, and 
had become greatly attached to each other. Then school dis- 
banded on account of there being so few scholars, and we did 
not see each other much for a long while. One Sunday my 
mother visited the Lincolns, and I was taken along. Abe 
and I played around all day. Finally, we concluded to cross 
the creek to hunt for some partridges young Lincoln had seen 
the day before. The creek was swollen by a recent rain, and, 
in crossing on the narrow footlog, Abe fell in. Neither of 
us could swim. I got a long pole and held it out to Abe, who 
grabbed it. Then I pulled him ashore. He was almost 
dead, and I was badly scared. I rolled and pounded him in 
good earnest. Then I got him by the arms and shook him, 
the water meanwhile pouring out of his mouth. By this 
means I succeeded in bringing him to, and he was soon all 

" Then a new difficulty confronted us. If our mothers 
discovered our wet clothes they would whip us. This we 
dreaded from experience, and determined to avoid. It was 
June, the sun was very warm, and we soon dried our clothing 
by spreading it on the rocks about us. We promised never 
to tell the story, and I never did until after Lincoln's tragic 

When the little boy was about four years old the first real 
excitement of his life occurred. His father moved from the 
farm on Nolin creek to another some fifteen miles northeast 
on Knob creek, and here the child began to go to school. At 
that day the schools in the west were usually accidental, de- 
pending upon the coming of some poor and ambitious young 
man who was willing to teach a few terms while he looked 
for an opening to something better. The terms were ir- 
regular, their length being decided by the time the settlers 


felt able to board the master and pay his small salary, Thts 
chief qualifications for a school-master seem to have been 
enough strength to keep the " big boys " in order, though 
one high authority affirms that pluck went " for a heap sight 
more'n sinnoo with boys." 

Many of the itinerant masters were Catholics, strolling 
Irishmen from the colony in Tennessee, or French priests 
from Kaskaskia. Lincoln's first teacher, Zachariah Riney, 
was a Catholic. Of his second teacher, Caleb Hazel, we know 
even less than of Riney. Mr. Gollaher says that Abraham 
Lincoln, in those days when he was his schoolmate, was " an 
unusually bright boy at school, and made splendid progress 
in his studies. Indeed, he learned faster than any of his 
schoolmates. Though so young, he studied very hard. He 
would get spicewood bushes, hack them up on a log, and 
burn them two or three together, for the purpose of giving 
light by which he might pursue his studies." 

Probably the boy's mother had something to do with the 
spice-wood illuminations. Tradition has it that Mrs. Lincoln 
took great pains to teach her children what she knew, and 
that at her knee they heard all the Bible lore, fairy tales, and 
country legends that she had been able to gather in her poor 

Besides the "A B C schools," as Lincoln called them, the 
only other medium of education in the country districts of 
Kentucky in those days was "preaching." Itinerants like the 
school-masters, the preachers, of whatever denomination, 
were generally uncouth and illiterate ; the code of morals they 
taught was mainly a healthy one, and they, no doubt, did 
much to keep the consciences of the pioneers awake. It is diffi- 
cult to believe that they ever did much for the moral training 
of young Lincoln, though he certainly got his first notion of 
public speaking from them ; and for years in his boyhood one 
of his chief delights was to gather his playmates about him, 


From a photograph taken in September, 1895, for this biography. The house in which 
Lincoln was born is seen to the right, in the background 

See page 14 

From a photograph taken in September, 1895, for this biography 

See page 14 


and preach and thump until he had his auditors frightened 
or in tears. 

As soon as the child was strong enough to follow his father 
in the fields, he was put to work at simple tasks ; — bringing 
tools, carrying water, picking berries, dropping seeds. He 
learned to know his father's farm from line to line and years 
after, when President of the United States, he recalled in a 
conversation at the White House, in the presence of Dr. J. J. 
Wright of Emporia, Kansas, the arrangement of the fields 
and an incident of his own childish experience as a farmer's 
son. " Mr. President," one of the visitors had asked, " how 
would you like when the war is over to visit your old home 
in Kentucky?" "I would like it very much," Mr. Lin- 
coln replied. " I remember that old home very well. Our 
farm was composed of three fields. It lay in the valley sur- 
rounded by high hills and deep gorges. Sometimes when 
there came a big rain in the hills the water would come down 
through the gorges and spread all over the farm. The last 
thing that I remember of doing there was one Saturday 
afternoon ; the other boys planted the corn in what we called 
the big field; it contained seven acres — and I dropped the 
pumpkin seed. I dropped two seeds every other hill and 
every other row. The next Sunday morning there came a 
big rain in the hills, it did not rain a drop in the valley, but 
the water coming down through the gorges washed ground, 
corn, pumpkin seeds and all clear off the field." 



In 1816 a great event happened to the little boy. His 
father emigrated from Knob creek to Indiana. " This re- 
moval was partly on account of slavery, but chiefly on ac- 
count of the difficulty in land titles in Kentucky,' ' says his 
son. It was due, as well, no doubt, to the fascination which an 
unknown country has always for the adventurous, and to that 
restless pioneer spirit which drives even men of sober judg- 
ment continually towards the frontier, in search of a place 
where the conflict with nature is less severe — some spot 
farther on, to which a friend or a neighbor has preceded, and 
from which he sends back glowing reports. It may be that 
Thomas Lincoln was tempted into Indiana by the reports of 
his brother Joseph, who had settled on the Big Blue river in 
that State. At all events, in the fall of 1816 he started with 
wife and children and household stores to journey by horse- 
back and by wagon from Knob creek to a farm selected on a 
previous trip he had made. This farm, located near Little 
Pigeon creek, about fifteen miles north of the Ohio river, and 
a mile and a half east of Gentryville, Spencer County, was in 
a forest so dense that the road for the travellers had to be 
hewed out as they went. 

To a boy of seven years, free from all responsibility, and 
too vigorous to feel its hardships, such a journey must have 
been a long delight and wonder. Life suddenly ceased its 
routine, and every day brought forth new scenes and adven- 
tures. Little Abraham saw forests greater than he had ever 



dreamed of, peopled by strange birds and beasts, and he 
crossed a river so wide that it must have seemed to him like 
the sea. To Thomas and Nancy Lincoln the journey was 
probably a hard and sad one ; but to the children beside them 
it was a wonderful journey into the unknown. 

On arriving at the new farm an axe was put into the boy's 
hands, and he was set to work to aid in clearing a field for 
:orn, and to help build the " half-face camp " which for a 
year was the home of the Lincolns. There were few more 
primitive homes in the wilderness of Indiana in 18 16 than 
this of young Lincoln, and there were few families, even in 
that day, who were forced to practice more make-shifts to 
get a living. The cabin which took the place of the " half- 
face camp " had but one room, with a loft above. For a 
long time there was no window, door, or floor ; not even the 
traditional deer-skin hung before the exit; there was no 
oiled paper over the opening for light; there was no pun- 
cheon covering on the ground. 

The furniture was of their own manufacture. The table 
and chairs were of the rudest sort — rough slabs of wood in 
which holes were bored and legs fitted in. Their bedstead, or, 
rather bed- frame, was made of poles held up by two outer 
posts, and the ends made firm by inserting the poles in auger- 
holes that had been bored in a log which was a part of the 
wall of the cabin ; skins were its chief covering. Little Abra- 
ham's bed was even more primitive. He slept on a heap of 
dry leaves in the corner of the loft, to which he mounted by 
means of pegs driven into the wall. 

Their food, if coarse, was usually abundant ; the chief diffi- 
culty in supplying the larder was to- secure any variety. Of 
game there was plenty — deer, bear, pheasants, wild turkeys, 
ducks, birds of all kinds. There were fish in the streams, and 
wild fruits of many kinds in the woods in the summer, and 
these were dried for winter use ; but the difficulty of raising 


and milling corn and wheat was very great. Indeed, in many 
places in the west the first flour cake was an historical event. 
Corn-dodger was the every-day bread of the Lincoln house- 
hold, the wheat cake being a dainty reserved for Sunday 

Potatoes were the only vegetable raised in any quantity, 
and there were times in the Lincoln family when they were 
the only food on the table ; a fact proved to posterity by the 
oft-quoted remark of Abraham to his father after the latter 
had asked a blessing over a dish of roasted potatoes — " that 
they were mighty poor blessings. " Not only were they all 
the Lincolns had for dinner sometimes; one of their neigh- 
bors tells of calling there when raw potatoes, pared and 
washed, were passed around instead of apples or other fruit. 
They even served as a kind of pioneer chauffrette — being 
baked and given to the children to carry in their hands as 
they started to school or on distant errands in winter time. 

The food was prepared in the rudest way, for the supply of 
both groceries and cooking utensils was limited. The for- 
mer were frequently wanting entirely, and as for the latter, 
the most important item was the Dutch oven. An indis- 
pensable article in the primitive kitchen outfit was the " grit- 
ter." It was made by flattening out an old piece of tin 
punching it full of holes, and nailing it on a board. Upon 
this all sorts of things were grated, even ears of corn, in 
which slow way, enough meal was sometimes secured for 
bread. Old tin was used for many other contrivances be- 
sides the " gritter," and every scrap was carefully saved. 
Most of the dishes were of pewter; the spoons, iron; the 
knives and forks horn-handled. 

The Lincolns of course made their own soap and candles, 
and if they 'had cotton or wool to wear they had literally to 
grow it. It is probable that young Abraham Lincoln wore 
little cotton or linsey-woolsey. His trousers were of roughly 
tanned deer-skin, his foot-covering- a home-made moccasin. 


his cap a coon-skin; it was only the material for his blouse or 
shirt that was woven at home. If this costume had some ob- 
vious disadvantages, it was not to be despised. So good an 
authority as Governor Reynolds says of one of its articles — 
the linsey-woolsey shirt — " It was an excellent garment. I 
have never felt so happy and healthy since I put it off." 

These "pretty pinching times," as Abraham Lincoln once 
described the early days in Indiana, lasted until 1819. The 
year before Nancy Lincoln had died, and for many months 
no more forlorn place could be conceived than this pioneer 
home bereft of its guiding spirit; but finally Thomas Lincoln 
went back to Kentucky and returned with a new wife — Sally 
Bush Johnston, a widow with three children, John, Sarah, 
and Matilda. The new mother came well provided with 
household furniture, bringing many things unfamiliar to lit- 
tle Abraham — "one fine bureau, one table, one set of chairs, 
one large clothes-chest, cooking utensils, knives, forks, bed- 
ding, jnd other articles." She was a woman of energy, 
thrift, and gentleness, and at once made the cabin home-like 
and taught the children habits of cleanliness and comfort. 

Abraham was ten years old when his new mother came 
from Kentucky, and he was already an important member 
of the family. He was remarkably strong for his years, and 
the work he could do in a day was a decided advantage to 
Thomas Lincoln. The axe which had been put into his hand 
to help in making the first clearing, he had never been al- 
lowed to drop; indeed, as he says himself, " from that till 
within his twenty-third year he was almost constantly hand- 
ling that most useful instrument." Besides, he drove the 
team, cut the elm and linn brush with which the stock was 
often fed, learned to handle the old shovel-plough, to wield 
the sickle, to thresh the wheat with a flail, to fan and clean it 
with a sheet, to go to mill and turn the hard-earned grist 
into flour. In short, he learned all the trades the settler's 


boy must know, and so well that when his father did not 
need him he could hire him to the neighbors. Thomas 
Lincoln also taught him the rudiments of carpentry and 
cabinet-making, and kept him busy much of the time as his 
assistant in his trade. There are houses still standing, in 
and near Gentryville, on which it is said he worked. 

As he grew older he became one of the strongest and most 
popular " hands " in the vicinity, and much of his time was 
spent as a " hired boy " on some neighbor's farm. For 
twenty-five cents a day — paid to his father — he was hostler, 
ploughman, wood-chopper, and carpenter, besides helping 
the women with the " chores." For them he was ready to 
carry water, make the fire, even tend the baby. No wonder 
that a laborer who never refused to do anything asked of 
him, who could " strike with a maul heavier blows " and 
" sink an axe deeper into the wood " than anybody else in 
the community, and who at the same time was general help 
for the women, never lacked a job in Gentryville. 

Of all the tasks his rude life brought him, none seems to 
have suited him better than going to the mill. It was, per- 
haps, as much the leisure enforced by this trip as anything 
else that attracted him. The machinery was primitive, and 
each man waited his turn, which sometimes was long in com- 
ing. A story is told by one of the pioneers of Illinois of go- 
ing many miles with a grist, and waiting so long for his turn, 
that when it came, he and his horse had eaten all the corn 
and he had none to grind. This waiting with other men 
and boys on like errands gave an opportunity for talk, 
story-telling, and games, which were Lincoln's delight. 

If Abraham Lincoln's life was rough and hard it was 
not without amusements. At home the rude household was 
overflowing with life. There were Abraham and his sister, 
a stepbrother and two stepsisters, and a cousin of Nancy 

By permission, from Herndon and Weik s " Life of Abraham Lincoln." 
Copyright 1892. by D. ADpletoaAOc 


Hanks Lincoln, Dennis (Friend) Hanks, whom misfortune 
had made an inmate of the Lincoln home— quite enough 
to plan sports and mischief and keep time from growing dull. 
Thomas Lincoln and Dennis Hanks were both famous story- 
tellers, and the Lincolns spent many a cozy evening about 
their cabin fire, repeating the stories they knew. 

Of course the boys hunted. Not that Abraham ever became 
a true sportsman ; indeed, he seems to have lacked the genu- 
ine sporting instinct. In a curious autobiography, written 
entirely in the third person, which Lincoln prepared at the 
request of a friend in i860, he says of his exploits as a 
hunter: "A few days before the completion of his eighth 
year, in the absence of his father, a flock of wild turkeys ap- 
proached the new log cabin ; and Abraham with a rifle gun, 
standing inside, shot through a crack and killed one of them. 
He has never since pulled the trigger on any larger game." 
This exploit is confirmed by Dennis Hanks, who says: "No 
doubt about A. Lincoln's killing the turkey. He done it with 
his father's rifle, made by William Lutes of Bullitt county, 
Kentucky. I have killed a hundred deer with her myself ; tur- 
keys too numerous to mention.'* 

But there were many other country sports which he en- 
joyed to the full. He went swimming in the evenings ; fished 
with the other boys in Pigeon creek, wrestled, jumped, and 
ran races at the noon rests. He was present at every country 
horse-race and fox-chase. The sports he preferred were 
those which brought men together; the spelling-school, the 
husking-bee ; the "raising ;" and of all these he was the life by 
his wit, his stories, his good nature, his doggerel verses, his 
practical jokes, and by a rough kind of politeness — for even 
in Indiana in those times there was a notion of politeness, 
and one of Lincoln's school-masters had given "lessons in 
manners." Lincoln seems to have profited in a degree by 
them; for Mrs. Crawford, at whose home he worked for 


some time, declares that he always "lifted his hat and bowed" 
when he made his appearance. 

There was, of course, a rough gallantry among the young 
people; and Lincoln's old comrades and friends in Indiana 
have left many tales of how he "went to see the girls," of how 
he brought in the biggest back-log and made the brightest 
fire; of how the young people, sitting around it, watch- 
ing the way the sparks flew, told their fortunes. He helped 
pare apples, shell corn and crack nuts. He took the girls to 
meeting and to spelling-school, though he was not often al-» 
lowed to take part in the spelling-match, for the one who 
"chose first" always chose "Abe Lincoln/' and that was 
equivalent to winning, as the others knew that "he would 
stand up the longest." 

The nearest approach to sentiment at this time, of which 
we know, is recorded in a story Lincoln once told to an ac« 
quaintance in Springfield. It was a rainy day, and he was sit- 
ting with his feet on the window-sill, his eyes on the street, 
watching the rain. Suddenly he looked up and said : 

"Did you ever write out a story in your mind ? I did when 
I was a little codger. One day a wagon with a lady and two 
girls and a man broke down near us, and while they were 
fixing up, they cooked in our kitchen. The woman had books 
and read us stories, and they were the first I had ever heard. 
I took a great fancy to one of the girls ; and when they were 
gone I thought of her a great deal, and one day when I was 
sitting out in the sun by the house I wrote out a story in my 
mind. I thought I took my father's horse and followed the 
wagon, and finally I found it, and they were surprised to see 
me. I talked with the girl and persuaded her to elope with 
me ; and that night I put her on my horse, and we started off 
across the prairie. After several hours we came to a camp; 
and when we rode up we found it was the one we had left a 
few hours before, and we went in. The next night we tried 
again, and the same thing happened — the horse came back to 
the same place; and then we concluded that we ought not to 


elope. I stayed until I had persuaded her father to give her 
to me. I always meant to write that story out and publish it, 
and I began once ; but I concluded that it was not much of a 
story. But I think that was the beginning of love with me." 

His life had its tragedies as well as its touch of romance — 
tragedies so real and profound that they gave dignity to all 
the crudeness and poverty which surrounded him, and quick- 
ened and intensified the melancholy temperament which he 
inherited from his mother. Away back in 1816, when 
Thomas Lincoln had started to find a farm in Indiana, bid- 
ding his wife be ready to go into the wilderness on his re- 
turn, Nancy Lincoln had taken her boy and girl to a tiny 
grave, that of her youngest child; and the three had there 
said good-by to a little one whom the children had scarcely 
known, but for whom the mother's grief was so keen that the 
boy never forgot the scene. 

Two years later he saw his father make a green pine box 
and put his dead mother into it, and he saw her buried not 
far from their cabin, almost without prayer. Young as he 
was, it was his efforts, it is said, which brought a parson 
from Kentucky, three months later, to preach the sermon and 
conduct the service which seemed to the child a necessary 
honor to the dead. As sad as the death of his mother was 
that of his only sister, Sarah. Married to Aaron Grigsby in 
1826, she had died a year and a half later in child-birth, a 
death which to her brother must have seemed a horror and a 

Apart from these family sorrows there was all the crime 
and misery of the community — all of which came to his ears 
and awakened his nature. He even saw in those days one of 
his companions go suddenly mad. The young man never re- 
covered his reason but sank into idiocy. All night he would 
croon plaintive songs, and Lincoln himself tells how, fasci 
nated by this mysterious malady, he used to rise before day 


light to cross the fields to listen to this funeral dirge of the 
reason. In spite of the poverty and rudeness of his life the 
depths of his nature were unclouded. He could feel intensely, 
and his imagination was quick to respond to the touch of 


\ '• 




, t 

, -^K. 0- "; 


• \ Tx* 

^ N 1 



* « 



Abraham Lincoln's early opportunities- — the books 

he read— trips to new orleans impression he 

made on his friends 

With all his hard living and hard work, Lincoln was get- 
ting, in this period, a desultory kind of education. Not that 
he received much schooling. He went to school " by littles," 
he says; "in all it did not amount to more than a year." And, 
if we accept his own description of the teachers, it was, per- 
haps, just as well that it was only " by littles." No qualifica- 
tion was required of a teacher beyond " reading writin/ and 
cipherin' to the rule of three." If a straggler supposed to 
know Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was 
looked upon as a "wizard." But more or less of a school-room 
is a matter of small importance if a boy has learned to read, 
and to think of what he reads. And that, this boy had learned. 
His stock of books was small, but he knew them thoroughly, 
and they were good books to know; the Bible, "^Esop's Fa- 
bles," "Robinson Crusoe," Bunyan's "Pilgrim Progress," a 
"History of the United States," Weems's "Life of Washing- 
ton," and the "Statutes of Indiana."* These are the chief 

*The first authorized sketch of Lincoln's life was written by the late 
John L. Scripps of the Chicago " Tribune," who went to Springfield at 
Mr. Lincoln's request, and by him was furnished the data for a campaign 
biography. In a letter written to Mr. Herndon after the death of Lin- 
coln, which Herndon turned over to me, Scripps relates that in writing 
his^ book he stated that Lincoln as a youth read Plutarch's " Lives." 
This he did simply because, as a rule, every boy in the West in the early 
days did read Plutarch. When the advance sheets of the book reached 
Mr. Lincoln, he sent for the author and said, gravely : " That paragraph 
wherein you state that I read Plutarch's * Lives ' was not true when you 
wrote it, for up to that moment in my life I had never seen that early 
contribution to human history; but I want your book, even if it k 



ones we know about. Some of these books he borrowed from 
the neighbors ; a practice which resulted in at least one casu- 
alty, for Weems's "Life of Washington" he allowed to get 
wet, and to make good the loss he had to pull fodder three 
days. No matter. The book became his then, and he could 
read it as he would. Fortunately he took this curious work in 
profound seriousness, which a wide-awake boy would hardly 
be expected to do to-day. Washington became an exalted 
figure in his imagination; and he always contended later, 
when the question of the real character of the first President 
was brought up, that it was wiser to regard him as a god- 
like being, heroic in nature and deeds, as Weems does, than 
to contend that he was only a man who, if wise and good, 
still made mistakes and was guilty of follies, like other men. 
Besides these books he borrowed many others. He once 
told a friend that he "read through every book he had ever 
heard of in that country, for a circuit of fifty miles." From 
everything he read he made long extracts, with his turkey- 
buzzard pen and brier-root ink. When he had no paper he 
would write on a board, and thus preserve his selections un- 
til he secured a copybook. The wooden fire-shovel was his 
usual slate, and on its back he ciphered with a charred stick 
shaving it off when it had become too grimy for use. The 
logs and boards in his vicinity he covered with his figures 
and quotations. By night he read and worked as long as 
there was light, and he kept a book in the crack of the logs in 
his loft, to have it at hand at peep of day. When acting as 
ferryman on the Ohio, in his nineteenth year, anxious, no 
doubt, to get through the books of the house where he 
boarded, before he left the place, he read every night until 

nothing more than a campaign sketch, to be faithful to the facts; and 
in order that the statement might be literally true, I secured the book a 
few weeks ago, and have sent for you to tell you that I have just read 
it through." — Jesse W. Weik. 



Every lull in his daily labor he used for reading, rarely 
going to his work without a book. When ploughing or culti- 
vating the rough fields of Spencer county, he found fre- 
quently a half hour for reading, for at the end of every long 
row the horse was allowed to rest, and Lincoln had his book 
out and was perched on stump or fence, almost as soon as the 
plough had come to a standstill. One of the few people still 
left in Gentryville who remembers Lincoln, Captain John 
Lamar, tells to this day of riding to mill with his father, and 
seeing, as they drove along, a boy sitting on the top rail of an 
old-fashioned stake-and-rider worm fence, reading so in- 
tently that he did not notice their approach. His father turn- 
ing to him, said : "John, look at that boy yonder, and mark 
my words, he will make a smart man out of himself. I may 
not see it, but you'll see if my words don't come true." "That 
boy was Abraham Lincoln," adds Mr. Lamar impressively. 

In his habits of reading and study the boy had little en- 
couragement from his father, but his stepmother did all she 
could for him. Indeed, between the two there soon grew up a 
relation of touching gentleness and confidence. In one of the 
interviews a biographer of Mr. Lincoln sought with her be- 
fore her death, Mrs. Lincoln said : 

"I induced my husband to permit Abe to read and study at 
home, as well as at school. At first he was not easily recon- 
ciled to it, but finally he too seemed willing to encourage him 
to a certain extent. Abe was a dutiful son to me always, and 
we took particular care when he was reading not to disturb 
him — would let him read on and on till he quit of his own 
accord." This consideration of his stepmother won the boy's 
confidence, and he rarely copied anything that he did not take 
it to her to read, asking her opinion of it ; and often, when 
she did not understand it, explaining the meaning in his plain 
and simple language. 

Among the books which fell into young Lincoln's hand 


when he was about eighteen years old was a copy of the 
"Revised Statutes of Indiana."* We know from Den- 
nis Hanks and from Mr. Turnham of Gentryville, to 
whom the book belonged, and from other associates of 
Lincoln at the time, that he read the book intently and 
discussed its contents intelligently. It was a remarkable 
volume for a thoughtful lad whose mind had already 
been fired by the history of Washington. It opened 
with that wonderful document, the Declaration of Independ- 
ence, following the Declaration of Independence was the 
Constitution of the United States, the Act of Virginia passed 
in 1783 by which the "Territory North Westward of the 
river Ohio" was conveyed to the United States, and the ordi- 
nance of 1787 for governing this territory, containing that 
clause on which Lincoln in the future based many an argu- 
ment on the slavery question. This article, No. 6 of the Ordi- 
nance, reads: "There shall be neither slavery nor involun- 
tary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the 
punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly 
convicted : provided always, that any person escaping into 
the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in 
any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully 
reclaimed, and conveyed to the person claiming his or her la- 
bor or service, as aforesaid." 

*The book was owned by Mr. David Turnham of Gentryville, and was 
given by him in 1865 to Mr. Herndon, who placed it in the Lincoln 
Memorial collection of Chicago. In December, 1894, this collection was 
sold in Philadelphia, and the "Statutes of Indiana" was bought by Mr. 
William Hoffman Winters, Librarian of the New York Law Institute, 
where it now may be seen. The book is worn, the title page is gone, 
and a few leaves from the end are missing. The title page of a duplicate 
volume reads: "The Revised Laws of Indiana, adopted and enacted by 
the General Assembly at their eighth session. To which are prefixed the 
Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the 
Constitution of the State of Indiana, and sundry other documents con- 
nected with the Political History of the Territory and State of Indiana, 
Arranged and published by authority of the General Assembly. Cory 
don : Printed by Carpenter and Dov^glass, 1824." 



Following this was the Constitution and the Revised Laws 
of Indiana, three hundred and seventy-five pages, of five hun- 
dred words each, of statutes. When Lincoln finished 
this book, as he had, probably, before he was eighteen, we 
have reason to believe that he understood the principles on 
which the nation was founded, how the State of Indiana 
came into being, and how it was governed. His understand- 
ing of the subject was clear and practical, and he applied it in 
his reading, thinking, and discussion. After he had read the 
Statutes of Indiana, Lincoln had free access to the library of 
an admirer, Judge John Pitcher of Rockport, Indiana, 
where he examined many books. 

Although so far away from the center of the world's activ- 
ity, he was learning something of current history. One man 
in Gentryville, Mr. Jones, the storekeeper, took a Louisville 
paper, and here Lincoln went regularly to read and discuss 
its contents. All the men and boys of the neighborhood 
gathered there, and everything which the paper printed was 
subjected to their keen, shrewd common sense. It was not 
long before young Lincoln became the favorite member of 
the group, the one listened to most respectfully. Politics were 
warmly discussed by these Gentryville citizens, and it may 
be that sitting on the counter of Jones's grocery, Lincoln even 
argued on slavery. It certainly was one of the live questions 
in Indiana at that date. 

For several years after the organization of the Territory, 
and in spite of the Ordinance of 1787, a system of thinly dis- 
guised slavery had existed; and it took a sharp struggle to 
bring the State in without some form of the institution. So 
uncertain was the result that, when decided, the word passed 
from mouth to mouth all over Hoosierdom, "She has come in 
free, she has come in free!" Even in 1820, four years after 
the admission to Statehood, the census showed one hundred 
and ninety slaves, nearly all of them in the southwest corner, 


where the Lincolns lived, and it was not, in reality, until 1821 
that the State Supreme Court put an end to the question. In 
Illinois in 1822- 1824 there was carried on one of the most 
violent contests between the friends and opponents of slavery 
Which occurred before the repeal of the Missouri Compro- 
mise. The effort to secure slave labor was nearly successful. 
In the campaign, pamphlets pro and con literally inundated 
the State; the pulpits took it up; and "almost every stump in 
every county had its bellowing, indignant orator." So violent 
a commotion so near at hand could hardly have failed 
to reach Gentryville. 

There had been other anti-slavery agitation going on 
within hearing for several years. In 1804 a number of Baptist 
ministers of Kentucky started a crusade against the institu- 
tion, which resulted in a hot contest in the denomination, and 
the organization of the "Baptist Licking-Locust Association 
Friends of Humanity." The Rev. Jesse Head, the minister 
who married Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, talked 
freely and boldly against slavery; and one of their old 
friends, Christopher Columbus Graham, the man who was 
present at their wedding, says : "Tom and Nancy Lincoln and 
Sally Bush were just steeped full of Jesse Head's notions 
about the wrong of slavery and the rights of man as ex- 
plained by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine." In 1806 
Charles Osborne began to preach "immediate emancipation" 
in Tennessee. Ten years later he started a paper in Ohio, 
devoted to the same idea, and in 18 1.9 he transferred his cru- 
sade to Indiana. In 1821 Benjamin Lundy started, in Ten- 
nessee, the famous "Genius," devoted to the same doctrine; 
and in 1822, at Shelby ville, only about one hundred miles 
from Gentryville, was started a paper similar in its views, 
the "Abolition Intelligencer." 

At that time there were in Kentucky five or six abolition 
societies, and in Illinois was an organization called the 


"Friends of Humanity." Probably young Lincoln heard but 
vaguely of these movements; but of some of them he must 
have heard, and he must have connected them with the 
"Speech of Mr. Pitt on the Slave Trade;" with Merry's 
elegy, "The Slaves," and with the discussion given in his 
"Kentucky Preceptor," "Which has the Most to Complain 
of, the Indian or the Negro ?" all of which tradition declares 
he was fond of repeating. It is not impossible that, as Freder- 
ick Douglas first realized his own condition in reading a 
school-speaker, the "Columbian Orator," so Abraham Lin- 
coln first felt the wrong of slavery in reading his " Ken- 
tucky " or "American Preceptor." 

Lincoln was not only winning in these days in the Jones 
grocery store a reputation as a talker and a story-teller; he 
was becoming known as a kind of backwoods orator. He 
could repeat with effect all the poems and speeches in his vari- 
ous school readers, he could imitate to perfection the wander- 
ing preachers who came to Gentryville, and he could make a 
political speech so stirring that he drew a crowd about him 
every time he mounted a stump. The applause he won was 
sweet; and frequently he indulged his gifts when he ought 
to have been working — so thought his employers and 
Thomas, his father. It was trying, no doubt, to the hard- 
pushed farmers, to see the men who ought to have been cut- 
ting grass or chopping wood throw down their scythes or 
axes and group around a boy, whenever he mounted a stump 
to develop a pet theory or repeat with variations yesterday's 
sermon. In his fondness for speech-making young Lincoln 
attended all the trials of the neighborhood, and frequently 
walked fifteen miles to Boonville to attend court. 

He wrote as well as spoke, and some of his productions 
were printed, through the influence of his admiring neigh- 
bors. Thus a local Baptist preacher was so struck with one 
of Abraham's essays on temperance that he sent it to Ohio, 


where it is said to have appeared in a newspaper. Another 
article on "National Politics," so pleased a lawyer of the 
vicinity that he declared the "world couldn't beat it." 

In considering the different opportunities for development 
which the boy had at this time it should not be forgotten that 
he spent many months at one time or another on the Ohio 
and Mississippi rivers. In fact, all that Abraham Lincoln 
saw of men and the world outside of Gentryville and its 
neighborhood, until after he was twenty-one years of age he 
saw on these rivers. For many years the Ohio and the Mis- 
sissippi were the Appian Way, the one route to the world for 
the western settlers. To preserve it they had been willing 
in early times to go to war with Spain or with France, to se- 
cede from the Union, even to join Spain or France against 
the United States if either country would insure their right to 
the highway. In the long years in which the ownership of 
the great river was unsettled, every man of them had come to 
feel with Benjamin Franklin, "a neighbor might as well ask 
me to sell my street door." In fact, this water-way was their 
"street door," and all that many of them ever saw of the 
world passed here. Up and down the rivers was a con- 
tinual movement. Odd craft of every kind possible on a 
river went by: "arks" and "sleds," with tidy cabins 
where families lived, and where one could see the washing 
stretched, the children playing, the mother on pleasant days 
rocking and sewing; keel-boats, which dodged in and out 
and turned inquisitive noses up all the creeks and bayous; 
great fleets from the Alleghanies, made up of a score or more 
of timber rafts, and manned by forty or fifty rough boatmen ; 
"Orleans boats," loaded with flour, hogs, produce of all 
kinds; pirogues, made from great trees; "broad-horns;" 
curious nondescripts worked by a wheel; and, after 1812, 

All this traffic was leisurely. Men had time to tie up and 


tell the news and show their wares. Even the steamboats 
loitered as it pleased them. They knew no schedule. They 
stopped anywhere to let passengers off. They tied up 
Wherever it was convenient, to wait for fresh wood to be cut 
and loaded, or for repairs to be made. Waiting for repairs, 
seems, in fact, to have absorbed a great deal of the time of 
these early steamers. They were continually running onto 
"sawyers," or "planters," or "wooden islands," and they 
blew up with a regularity which was monotonous. Even 
as late as 1842, when Charles Dickens made the trip down 
the Mississippi, he was often gravely recommended to keep 
as far aft as possible, "because the steamboats generally blew 
up forward." 

With this varied river life Abraham Lincoln first came 
into contact as a ferryman and boatman, when in 1826 he 
spent several months as a ferryman at the mouth of Ander- 
son creek, where it joins the Ohio. This experience sug- 
gested new possibilities to him. It was a custom among the 
farmers of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois at this date to collect a 
quantity of produce, and float down to New Orleans on a 
raft, to sell it. Young Lincoln saw this, and wanted to try 
his fortune as a produce merchant. An incident of his pro- 
jected trip he related once to Mr. Seward : 

"Seward," he said, "did you ever hear how I earned my 
first dollar?" 

"No," said Mr. Seward. 

"Well," replied he, "I was about eighteen years of age, 
and belonged, as you know, to what they call down south the 
'scrubs ;' people who do not own land and slaves are no- 
body there ; but we had succeeded in raising, chiefly by my 
labor, sufficient produce, as I thought, to justify me in taking 
it down the river to sell. After much persuasion I had got 
the consent of my mother to go, and had constructed a flat- 
boat large enough to take the few barrels of things we had 
gathered to New Orleans. A steamer was going down the 


river. We have, you know, no wharves on the western 
streams, and the custom was, if passengers were at any of 
the landings they were to go out in a boat, the steamer stop- 
ping, and taking them on board. I was contemplating my 
new boat, and wondering whether I could make it stronger 
or improve it in any part, when two men with trunks came 
down to the shore in carriages, and looking at the different 
boats, singled out mine, and asked, 'Who owns this ? ' I 
answered modestly, 'I do/ 'Will you/ said one of them, 
'take us and our trunks out to the steamer?' 'Certainly,' 
said I. I was very glad to have the chance of earning some- 
thing, and supposed that each of them would give me a 
couple of bits. The trunks were put in my boat, the pas- 
sengers seated themselves on them, and I sculled them out 
to the steamer. They got Gn board, and I lifted the trunks 
and put them on the deck. The steamer was about to put 
on steam again, when I called out, 'You have forgotten to 
pay me.' Each of them took from his pocket a silver half- 
dollar and threw it on the bottom of my boat. I could 
scarcely believe my eyes as I picked up the money. You 
may think it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems 
to me like a trifle, but it was a most important incident in 
my life. I could scarcely credit that I, the poor boy, had 
earned a dollar in less than a day; that by honest work I 
had earned a dollar. I was ? m more hopeful and thoughtful 
boy from that time." 

Soon after this, while he was working for Mr. Gentry, 
the leading citizen of Gentryville, his employer decided to 
send a load oi' produce to New Orleans, and chose young 
Lincoln to go as "bow-hand," "to work the front oars." 
For this trip he received eight dollars a month and his pas- 
sage back. Who can believe that he could see and be part 
of this river life without learning much of the ways and 
thoughts of the world beyond him ? Every time a steamboat 
or a raft tied up near Anderson creek and he with his com- 
panions boarded it and saw its mysteries and talked with its 
crew, every time he rowed out with passengers to a passing 


steamer, who can doubt that he came back with new ideas 
and fresh energy? The trips to New Orleans were, to a 
thoughtful boy, an education of no mean value. It was the 
most cosmopolitan and brilliant city of the United States at 
that date, and there young Lincoln saw life at its intensest. 

Such was Abraham Lincoln's life in Indiana; such were 
the avenues open to him for study and for seeing the world. 
In spite of the crudeness of it all; in spite of the fact that 
he had no wise direction, that he was brought up by a father 
with no settled purpose, and that he lived in a pioneer com- 
munity, where a young man's life at best is but a series of 
makeshifts, Lincoln soon developed a determination to make 
something out of himself, and a desire to know, which led 
him to neglect no opportunity to learn. 

The only unbroken outside influence which directed and 
stimulated him in these ambitions was that coming first from 
his mother, then from his stepmother. These two women, 
both of them of unusual earnestness and sweetness of spirit, 
were one or the other of them at his side throughout his 
youth and young manhood. The ideal they held before him 
was the simple ideal of the early American, that if a boy is 
upright and industrious he may aspire to any place within 
the gift of the country. The boy's instinct told him they 
were right. Everything he read confirmed their teachings, 
and he cultivated, in every way open to him, his passion to 
know and to be something. His zeal in study, his ambition 
to excel made their impression on his acquaintances. Even 
then they pointed him out as a boy who would "make some- 
thing" of himself. In 1865, thirty-five years after he left 
Gentryville, Wm. H. Herndon, for many years a law part- 
ner of Lincoln, anxious to save all that was known of Lin- 
coln in Indiana, went among his old associates, and with a 
sincerity and thoroughness worthy of grateful respect, inter- 
viewed them. At that time there were still living numbers 


of the people with whom Lincoln had been brought up. 
They all remembered something of him. It is curious to 
note that all of these people tell of his doing something dif- 
ferent from what other boys did, something sufficiently su- 
perior to have made a keen impression upon them. In almost 
every case each person had his own special reason for ad- 
miring Lincoln. A facility in making rhymes and writing 
essays was the admiration of many, who considered it the 
more remarkable because "essays and poetry were not taught 
in school," and "Abe took it up on his own account." 

Many others were struck by the clever application he made 
of this gift for expression. At one period he was employed 
as a "hand" by a farmer who treated him unfairly. Lincoln 
took a revenge unheard of in Gentry ville. He wrote dog- 
gerel rhymes about his employer's nose — a long and crooked 
feature about which the owner was very sensitive. The wit 
he showed in taking revenge for a social slight by a satire 
on the Grigsbys, who had failed to invite him to a wedding, 
made a lasting impression in Gentryville. That he should 
write so well as to be able to humiliate his enemies more 
deeply than if he had resorted to the method of taking re- 
venge current in the country, and thrashed them, seemed to 
his friends a mark of surprising superiority. 

His schoolmates all remembered his spelling. He stood 
at the head of his class invariably and at the spelling-matches 
in which the young people of the neighborhood passed many 
an evening the one who first began "choosing sides" always 
chose "Abe Lincoln." So often did he spell the school down 
that finally, tradition says, he was no longer allowed to take 
part in the matches. 

Very many of his old neighbors recalled his reading habits 
and how well stored his mind was with information. His 
explanations of natural phenomena were so unfamiliar to 
his companions that he sometimes was jeered at for them, 


though as a rule his listeners were sympathetic, taking" a 
certain pride in the fact that one of their number knew as 
much as Lincoln did. "He was better read than the world 
knows or is likely to know exactly," said one old acquaint- 
ance. "He often and often commented or talked to me about 
what he had read — seemed to read it out of the book as he 
went along — did so with others. He was the learned boy 
among us unlearned folks. He took great pains to explain ; 
could do it so simply. He was diffident, then, too." 

One man was impressed by the character of the sentences 
Lincoln had given him for a copybook. "It was considered at 

Aul 4j&&tC'i&& ^0v soma?* 


that time," said he, "that Abe was the best penman in the 
neighborhood. One day, While he was on a visit ait my 
mother's, I asked him to write some copies for me. He very 
willingly consented. He wrote several of them, but one of 
them I have never forgotten, although a boy at that time. It 
was this : 

" ' Good boys who to their books apply 
Will all be great men by and by.' " 

His wonderful memory was recalled by many. To save 
that which he found to his liking in the books he borrowed 
Lincoln committed much to memory. He knew many long 
poems, and most of the selections in the "Kentucky Precep- 


tor." By the time he was twenty-one, in fact, his mind was 
well stored with verse and prose. 

All of his comrades remembered his stories and his clear- 
ness in argument. " When he appeared in company," says 
Nat Grigsby, "the boys would gather and cluster around him 
to hear him talk. Mr. Lincoln was figurative in his speech, 
talks, and conversation. He argued much from analogy, 
and explained things hard for us to understand by stories, 
maxims, tales, and figures. He would almost always point 
his lesson or idea by some story that was plain and near us, 
that we might instantly see the force and bearing of what he 
said." This ability to explain clearly and to illustrate by 
simple figures of speech must be counted as the great mental 
acquirement of Lincoln's boyhood. It was a power which he 
gained by hard labor. Years later he related his experience 
to an acquaintance who had been surprised by the lucidity 
and simplicity of his speeches and who had asked where 
he was educated. 

"I never went to school more than six months in 
my life," he said, "but I can say this : that among my 
earliest recollections I remember how, when a mere child, 
I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I 
could not understand. I do not think I ever got angry at 
anything else in my life; but that always disturbed my tem- 
per, and has ever since. I can remember going to my little 
bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with 
my father, and spending no small part of the night walking 
up and down and trying to make out what was the exact 
meaning of some of their, to me, dark sayings. 

"I could not sleep, although I tried to, when I got on such 
a hunt for an idea until I had caught it ; and when I thought 
I had got it, I was not satisfied until I had repeated it over 
and over; until I had put it in language plain enough, as I 
thought, for any boy I knew to comprehend. This was a 
kind of passion with me, and it has stuck by me; for I am 
never easy now, when I am handling a thought, till I have 


bounded it north and bounded it south, and bounded it east 
and bounded it west." 

Mr. Herndon in his interviewing in Indiana found that 
everywhere Lincoln was remembered as kind and helpful. 
The man or woman in trouble never failed to receive all the 
aid he could give him. Even a worthless drunkard of the 
village called him friend, as well he might, Lincoln having 
gathered him up one night from the roadside where he lay 
freezing and carried him on his back a long distance to a 
shelter and a fire. The thoughtless cruelty to animals so 
common among country children revolted the boy. He 
wrote essays on "cruelty to animals," harangued his play- 
mates, protested whenever he saw any wanton abuse of a 
dumb creature. This gentleness made a lasting impression 
on his mates, coupled as it was with the physical strength 
and courage to enforce his doctrines. Stories of his good 
heart and helpful life might be multiplied but they are 
summed up in what his stepmother said of the boy: 

"Abe was a good boy, and I can say what scarcely one 
woman — a mother — can say in a thousand : Abe never gave 
me a cross word or look, and never refused, in fact or ap- 
pearance, to do anything I requested him. I never gave him 
a cross word in all my life. . . . His mind and mine — 
what little I had — seemed to run together. He was here 
after he was elected president. He was a dutiful son to me 
always. I think he loved me truly. I had a son, John, who 
was raised with Abe. Both were good boys ; but I must say, 
both now being dead, that Abe was the best boy I ever saw, 
or expect to see." 




In the spring of 1830 when Abraham Lincoln was 
twenty-one years old, his father, Thomas Lincoln, decided to 
leave Indiana. The reason Dennis Hanks gives for this re- 
moval was a disease called the "milk-sick." Abraham Lin- 
coln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and several of their 
relatives who had followed them from Kentucky had died of 
it. The cattle had been carried off by it. Neither brute nor 
human life seemed to be safe. As Dennis Hanks says : 
"This was reason enough (ain't it) for leaving?" Any one 
who has traveled through the portions of Spencer County in 
which the Lincolns settled will respect Thomas Lincoln for 
his energy in moving. When covered with timber, as the 
land was when he chose his farm, it no doubt promised well ; 
but fourteen years of hard labor showed him that the soil 
was niggardly and the future of the country unpromising. 
To-day, sixty-five years since the Lincolns left Spencer 
County, the country remains as it was then, dull, common- 
place, unfruitful. The towns show no signs of energy or 
prosperity. There are no leading streets or buildings; no 
man's house is better than his neighbor's, and every man's 
house is ordinary. For a long distance on each side of Gen- 
tryville as one passes by rail, no superior farm is to be seen, 
no prosperous farm or manufactory. It is a dead monotonous 
country, where no possibilities of quick wealth have been dis- 
covered, and which only centuries of tilling and fertilizing 
can make prosperous. 



The place chosen for their new home was the Sangamon 
country in central Illinois. It was at that day a country of 
great renown in the West, the name meaning "The land 
where there is plenty to eat." One of the family — John 
Hanks, a cousin of Abraham's mother — was already there, 
and the inviting* reports he had sent to Indiana were no doubt 
what led the Lincolns to decide on Illinois as their future 
home. Gentryville saw young Lincoln depart with genuine 
regret, and his friends gave him a score of rude proofs that 
he would not be forgotten. After he was gone, one of these 
friends planted a cedar tree in his memory. It still marks the 
site of the Lincoln home — the first monument erected to the 
memory of a man to whom the world will never cease to raise 

The spot on the hill overlooking Buckthorne valley, where 
the Lincolns said good-by to their old home and to the home 
of Sarah Lincoln Grigsby, to the grave of the mother and 
wife, to all their neighbors and friends, is still pointed out. 
Buckthorne valley held many recollections dear to them all, 
but to no one of the company was the place dearer than to 
Abraham. It is certain that he felt the parting keenly, and 
that he never forgot his years in the Hoosier State. One of 
the most touching experiences he relates in all his published 
letters is his emotion at visiting his old Indiana home four- 
teen years after he had left it. So strongly was he moved by 
the scenes of his first conscious sorrows, efforts, joys, am- 
bitions, that he put into verse the feelings they awakened. 

While he never attempted to conceal the poverty and hard- 
ship of these days, and would speak humorously of the 
"pretty pinching times" he experienced, he never regarded 
his life at this time as mean or pitiable. Frequently he talked 
to his friends in later days of his boyhood, and always with 
apparent pleasure. "Mr. Lincoln told this story (of his 
youth)," says Leonard Swett, "as the story of a happy child- 


hood. There was nothing sad or pinched, and nothing of 
want, and no allusion to want in any part of it. His own de- 
scription of his youth was that of a happy, joyous boyhood. 
It was told with mirth and glee, and illustrated by pointed 
anecdotes, often interrupted by his jocund laugh." 

And he was right. There was nothing ignoble or mean in 
this Indiana pioneer life. It was rude, but only with the 
rudeness which the ambitious are willing to endure in order 
to push on to a better condition than they otherwise could 
know. These people did not accept their hardships apatheti- 
cally. They did not regard them as permanent. They were 
only the temporary deprivations necessary in order to accom- 
plish what they had come into the country to do. For this 
reason they endured hopefully all that was hard. It is worth 
notice, too, that there was nothing belittling in their life ; there 
was no pauperism, no shirking. Each family provided for 
its own simple wants, and had the conscious dignity which 
comes from being equal to a situation. If their lives lacked 
culture and refinement, they were rich in independence and 

The company which emigrated to Illinois included the 
family of Thomas Lincoln and those of Dennis Hanks and 
Levi Hall, married to Lincoln's stepsisters — thirteen per- 
sons in all. They sold land, cattle and grain, and much of 
their household goods, and were ready in March of 1830 for 
their journey. All the possessions which the three families 
had to take with them were packed into big wagons — 
to which oxen were attached, and the caravan was ready. 
The weather was still cold, the streams were swollen, and the 
roads were muddy; but the party started out bravely. In- 
ured to hardships, alive to all the new sights on their route, 
every day brought them amusement and adventures, and es- 
pecially to young Lincoln the journey must have been of keen 


He drove one of the teams, he tells us, and, accord- 
ing to a story current in Gentryville, he succeeded in doing a 
fair peddler's business on the route. Captain William Jones, 
in whose father's store Lincoln had spent so many hours in 
discussion and in story-telling, and for whom he had worked 
the last winter he was in Indiana, says that before leaving 
the State Abraham invested all his money, some thirty-odd 
dollars, in notions. Though all the country through which 
they expected to pass was but sparsely settled, he believed he 
could dispose of them. "A set of knives and forks was the 
largest item entered on the bill," says Captain Jones; "the 
other items were needles, pins, thread, buttons, and other 
little domestic necessities. When the Lincolns reached their 
new home near Decatur, Illinois, Abraham wrote back to my 
father, stating that he had doubled his money on his purchases 
by selling them along the road. Unfortunately we did not 
keep that letter, not thinking how highly we would have 
prized it in years afterwards." 

The pioneers were a fortnight or their journey. All we 
know of the route they took is from a few chance remarks of 
Lincoln's to his friends to the effect that they passed through 
Vincennes, where he saw a printing-press for the first time, 
and through Palestine, where he saw a juggler performing 
sleight-of-hand tricks. They reached Macon County, their 
new home, from the south. Mr. H. C. Whitney says that 
once in Decatur, when he and Lincoln were passing the court- 
house together, "Lincoln walked out a few feet in front, 
and, after shifting his position two or three times, said, as he 
looked up at the building, partly to himself and partly to me : 
'Here is the exact spot where I stood by our wagon when 
we moved from Indiana, twenty-six years ago ; this isn't six 
feet from the exact spot.' . . . He then told me he had 
frequently thereafter tried to locate the route by which they 


had come, and that he had decided that it was near the main 
line of the Illinois Central railroad." 

The party settled some ten miles west of Decatur, in Ma- 
con County. Here John Hanks had the logs already cut for 
their new home, and Lincoln, Dennis Hanks, and Hall soon 
had a cabin erected. Mr. Lincoln says in his short autobi- 
ography of i860: "Here they built a log cabin, into which 
they removed, and made sufficient of rails to fence ten acres 
of ground, fenced and broke the ground, and raised a crop of 
sown corn upon it the same year. These are, or are supposed 
to be, the rails about which so much is being said just now, 
though these are far from being the first or only rails ever 
made by Abraham." If they were far from being his "first 
and only rails," they certainly were the most famous ones he 
or anybody else ever split. 

This was the last work Lincoln did for his father, for in 
the summer of that year (1830) he exercised the right of 
majority and started out to shift for himself. When he left 
his home, he went empty-handed. He was already some 
months over twenty-one years of age, but he had nothing in 
the world, not even a suit of respectable clothes ; and one of 
the first pieces of work he did was "to split four hundred rails 
for every yard of brown jeans dyed with white- walnut bark 
that would be necessary to make him a pair of trousers." He 
had no trade, no profession, no spot of land, no patron, no 
influence. Two things recommended him to his neighbors — 
he was strong, and he was a good fellow. 

His strength made him a valuable laborer. Not that he was 
fond of hard labor. One of his Indiana employers says : "Abe 
was no hand to pitch into work like killing snakes ;" but when 
he did work, it was with an ease and effectiveness which 
compensated his employer for the time he spent in practical 
jokes and extemporaneous speeches. He could lift as much 
as three ordinary men, and "My, how he would chop," says 


Dennis Hanks. "His axe would flash and bite into a sugar- 
tree or sycamore and down it would come. If you heard him 
fellin' trees in a clearin', you would say there was three men 
at work by the way the trees fell." 

Standing six feet four, he could out-lift, out-work and 
out-wrestle any man he came in contact with. Friends and 
employers were proud of his prowess, and boasted of it, never 
failing to pit him against any hero whose strength they heard 
vaunted. He himself was proud of it, and throughout his 
life was fond of comparing himself with tall and strong men. 
When the committee called on him in Springfield in i860, to 
notify him of his nomination as President, Governor Mor- 
gan, of New York, was of the number, a man of great height 
and brawn. 'Tray, Governor, how tall may you be?" was Mr. 
Lincoln's first question. There is a story told of a poor man 
seeking a favor from him once at the White House. He was 
overpowered by the idea that he was in the presence of the 
President, and, his errand done, was edging shyly away, 
when Mr. Lincoln stopped him, insisting that he measure 
with him. The man was the taller, as Mr. Lincoln had 
thought ; and he went away evidently as much abashed that 
he dared be taller than the President of the United States as 
that he had dared to venture into his presence. 

Governor Hoyt tells an excellent story illustrating this in- 
terest of Lincoln's in manly strength, and his involuntary 
comparison of himself with whomsoever showed it. It was in 
1859, after Lincoln had delivered a speech at the Wisconsin 
State Agricultural Fair in Milwaukee. Governor Hoyt had 
asked him to make the rounds of the exhibits, and they went 
into a tent to see a "strong man" perform. He went through 
the ordinary exercises with huge iron balls, tossing them in 
the air, and catching them and rolling them on his arms and 
back ; and Mr. Lincoln, who evidently had never before seen 
such a combination of agility and strength, watched him with 


intense interest, ejaculating under his breath now and then: 
"By George ! By George 1" When the performance was over, 
Governor Hoyt, seeing Mr. Lincoln's interest, asked him to 
go up and be introduced to the athlete. He did so ; and, as he 
stood looking down musingly on the man, who was very 
short, and evidently wondering that one so much smaller 
than he could be so much stronger, he suddenly broke out 
with one of his quaint speeches. "Why," he said, "why, I 
could lick salt off the top of your hat." 

His strength won him popularity, but his good-nature, his 
wit, his skill in debate, his stories, were still more efficient in 
gaining him good-will. People liked to have him around, and 
voted him a good fellow to work with. Yet such were the 
conditions of his life at this time that, in spite of his popu- 
larity, nothing was open to him but hard manual labor. To 
take the first job which he happened upon — rail-splitting, 
ploughing, lumbering, boating, store-keeping — and make the 
most of it, thankful if thereby he earned his bed and board 
and yearly suit of jeans, was apparently all there was before 
Abraham Lincoln in 1830, when he started out for himself. 

Through the summer and fall of 1830 and the early winter 
of 1 83 1, Mr. Lincoln worked in the vicinity of his father's 
new home, usually as a farm-hand and rail-splitter. Most of 
his work was done in company with John Hanks. Before the 
end of the winter he secured employment of which he has 
given an account himself, though in the third person : 

"During that winter, Abraham, together with his step- 
mother's son, John D. Johnston, and John Hanks, yet resid- 
ing in Macon County, hired themselves to Denton Offutt to 
take a flatboat from Beardstown, Illinois, to New Orleans, 
and for that purpose were to join him — Offutt — at Spring- 
field, Illinois, as soon as the snow should go off. When it did 
go off, which was about the first of March, 1831, the country 
was so flooded as to make traveling by land impracticable ; to 
obviate which difficulty they purchased a large canoe and 


came down the Sangamon river in it. This is the time and 
manner of Abraham's first entrance into Sangamon County. 
They found Offutt at Springfield, but learned from him that 
he had failed in getting a boat at Beardstown. This led to 
their hiring themselves to him for twelve dollars per month 
each, and getting the timber out of the trees, and building a 
boat at old Sangamon town, on the Sangamon river, seven 
miles northwest of Springfield, which boat they took to New 
Orleans, substantially on the old contract." 

Sangamon town, where Lincoln built the flatboat, has, 
since his day, completely disappeared from the earth; but 
then it was one of the flourishing settlements on the river of 
that name. Lincoln's advent in the town did not go unno- 
ticed. In a small community, cut off from the world, as old 
Sangamon was, every new-comer is scrutinized and discussed 
before he is regarded with confidence. Lincoln did not es- 
cape this scrutiny. His appearance was so striking in fact 
that he attracted everybody's attention. "He was a tall, 
gaunt young man," says Mr. John Roll, of Springfield, then 
a resident of Sangamon, "dressed in a suit of blue homespun 
jeans, consisting of a round-about jacket, waistcoat, and 
breeches which came to within about four inches of his feet. 
The latter were encased in rawhide boots, into the tops of 
which, most of the time, his pantaloons were stuffed. He 
wore a soft felt hat which had at one time been black, but 
now, as its owner dryly remarked, 'was sun-burned until it 
was a combine of colors.' " 

It took some four weeks to build the raft, and in that pe- 
riod Lincoln succeeded in captivating the entire village by his 
story-telling. It was the custom in Sangamon for the "men- 
folks" to gather at noon and in the evening, when resting, in 
a convenient lane near the mill. They had rolled out a long 
peeled log, on which they lounged while they whittled and 
talked. Lincoln had not been long in Sangamon before he 
joined this circle. At once he became a favorite by his jokes 


and good-humor. As soon as he appeared at the assembly 
ground the men would start him to story-telling. So irresist- 
ibly droll were his "yarns" that, says Mr. Roll, "whenever 
he'd end up in his unexpected way the boys on the log would 
whoop and roll off." The result of the rolling off was to pol- 
ish the log like a mirror. The men, recognizing Lincoln's 
part in this polishing, christened their seat "Abe's log." Long 
after Lincoln had disappeared from Sangamon, "Abe's log" 
remained, and until it had rotted away people pointed it out, 
and repeated the droll stories of the stranger. 

When the flatboat was finished Lincoln and his friends pre- 
pared to leave Sangamon. Before he started, however, he 
was the hero of an adventure so thrilling that he won new 
laurels in the community. Mr. Roll, who was a witness of the 
whole exciting scene, tells the story : 

"It, was the spring following the winter of the deep snow.* 5 
Walter Carman, John Seamon and myself, and at times oth- 
ers of the Carman boys had helped Abe in building the boat, 
and when we had finished we went to work to make a dug- 
out, or canoe, to be used as a small boat with the flat. We 
found a suitable log about an eighth of a mile up the river, 
and with our axes went to work under Lincoln's direction. 
The river was very high, fairly 'booming.' After the dug- 
out was ready to launch we took it to the edge of the water, 
and made ready to 'let her go,' when Walter Carman and 
John Seamon jumped in as the boat struck the water, each 
one anxious to be the first to get a ride. As they shot out from 
the shore they found they were unable to make any headway 
against the strong current. Carman had the paddle, and Sea- 
mon was in the stern of the boat. Lincoln shouted to them to 
'head up stream,' and 'work back to shore,' but they found 
themselves powerless against the stream. At last they began 
to pull for the wreck of an old flatboat, the first ever built on 

*i830 — 1831. "The winter of the deep snow" is the date which is the 
starting point in all calculations of time for the early settlers of Illinois, 
and the circumstance from which the old settlers of Sangamon Cour*y 
receive the name by which they are generally known, "Snow-birds/ 


the Sangamon, which had sunk and gone to pieces, leaving 
one of the stanchions sticking above the water. Just as they 
reached it Searnon made a grab, and caught hold of the 
stanchion, when the canoe capsized, leaving Seamon clinging 
to the old timber, and throwing Carman into the stream. It 
carried him down with the speed of a mill-race. Lincoln 
raised his voice above the roar of the flood, and yelled to Car- 
man to swim for an old tree which stood almost in the chan- 
nel, which the action of the high water had changed. 

" Carman, being a good swimmer, succeeded in catching 
a branch, and pulled himself up out of the water, which was 
very cold, and had almost chilled him to death ; and there he 
sat shivering and chattering in the tree. Lincoln, seeing Car- 
man safe, called out to Seamon to let go the stanchion and 
swim for the tree. With some hesitation he obeyed, and 
struck out, while Lincoln cheered and directed him from the 
bank. As Seamon neared the tree he made one grab for a 
branch, and, missing it, went under the water. Another des- 
perate lunge was successful, and he climbed up beside Car- 
man. Things were pretty exciting now, for there were two 
men in the tree, and the boat was gone. 

"It was a cold, raw April day, and there was great danger 
of the men becoming benumbed, and falling back into the 
water. Lincoln called out to them to keep their spirits up and 
he would save them. The village had been alarmed by this 
time, and many people had come down to the bank. Lincoln 
procured a rope, and tied it to a log. He called all hands to 
come and help roll the log into the water, and after this had 
been done, he, with the assistance of several others, towed it 
some distance up the stream. A daring young fellow by the 
name of 'Jim' Dorrell then took his seat on the end of the log, 
and it was pushed out into the current, with the expectation 
that it would be carried down stream against the tree where 
Seamon and Carman were. 

"The log was well directed, and went straight to the tree; 
but Jim, in his impatience to help his friends, fell a victim 
to his good intentions. Making a frantic grab at a branch, 
he raised himself off the log, which was swept from under 
him by the raging water, and he soon joined the other two 
victims upon their forlorn perch. The excitement on shore 


increased, and almost the whole population of the village 
gathered on the river bank. Lincoln had the log pulled up the 
stream, and, securing another piece of rope, called to the men 
in the tree to catch it if they could when he should reach the 
tree. He then straddled the log himself, and gave the word 
to push out into the stream. When he dashed into the tree, he 
threw the rope over the stump of a broken limb, and let it 
play until it broke the speed of the log, and gradually drew it 
back to the tree, holding it there until the three now nearly 
frozen men had climbed down and seated themselves astride. 
He then gave orders to the people on the shore to hold fast 
to the end of the rope which was tied to the log, and, leaving 
his rope in the tree he turned the log adrift. The force of the 
current, acting against the taut rope, swung the log around 
against the bank, and all 'on board' were saved. The excited 
people, who had watched the dangerous experiment with al- 
ternate hope and fear, now broke into cheers for Abe Lincoln 
and praises for his brave act. This adventure made quite a 
hero of him along the Sangamon, and the people never tired 
telling of the exploit. ,, 

The flatboat built and loaded, the party started for New 
Orleans about the middle of April. They had gone but a few 
miles when they met with another adventure. At the village 
of New Salem there was a mill-dam. On it the boat stuck, 
and here for nearly twenty- four hours it hung, the bow in the 
air and the stern in the water, the cargo slowly setting back- 
wards — shipwreck almost certain. The village of New Salem 
turned out in a body to see what the strangers would do in 
their predicament. They shouted, suggested, and advised for 
a time, but finally discovered that one big fellow in the crew 
was ignoring them and working out a plan of relief. Having 
unloaded the cargo into a neighboring boat, Lincoln had suc- 
ceeded in tilting his craft. Then, by boring a hole in the end 
extending over the dam, the water was let out. This done, 
the boat was easily shoved over and reloaded. The ingenuity 
which he had exercised in saving his boat made a deep im< 


pression on the crowd on the bank, and it was talked over fo* 
many a day. The proprietor of boat and cargo was even more 
enthusiastic than the spectators, and vowed he would build a 
steamboat for the Sangamon and make Lincoln the captain. 
Lincoln himself was interested in what he had done, and 
nearly twenty years later he embodied his reflections on this 
adventure in a curious invention for getting boats over 

The raft over the New Salem dam, the party went on to 
New Orleans, reaching there in May, 1831, and remaining a 
month. It must have been a month of intense intellectual 
activity for Lincoln. Since his first visit, made with young 
Gentry, New Orleans had entered upon her "flush times." 
Commerce was increasing at a rate which dazzled specula- 
tors and drew them from all over the United States. From 
1830 to 1840 no other American city increased in such 
a ratio; exports and imports, which in 1831 amounted 
to $26,000,000, in 1835 had more than doubled. The Creole 
population had held the sway so far in the city; but now it 
came into competition, and often into conflict, with a push- 
ing, ambitious, and frequently unscrupulous native Ameri- 
can party. To these two predominating elements were added 
Germans, French, Spanish, negroes, and Indians. Cosmo- 
politan in its make-up, the city was even more cosmopolitan 
in its life. Everything was to be seen in New Orleans in those 
days, from the idle luxury of the wealthy Creole to the or- 
ganization of filibustering juntas. The pirates still plied their 
trade in the Gulf, and the Mississippi river brought down 
hundreds of river boatmen — one of the wildest, wickedest 
set of men that ever existed in any city. 

Lincoln and his companions ran their boat up beside thou- 
sands of others. It was the custom to tie such craft along 
the river front where St. Mary's Market now stands, and 
one could walk a mile, it is said, over the tops of these boats 


without going ashore. No doubt Lincoln went too, to live in 
the boatmen's rendezvous, called the "swamp," a wild, rough 
quarter, where roulette, whiskey, and the flint-lock pistol 
ruled. All of the picturesque life, the violent contrasts of the 
city, he would see as he wandered about ; and he would carry 
away the sharp impressions which are produced when mind 
and heart are alert, sincere, and healthy. 

In this month spent in New Orleans, Lincoln must have 
seen much of slavery. At that time the city was full of slaves, 
and the number was constantly increasing ; indeed, one-third 
of the New Orleans increase in population between 1830 and 
1840 was in negroes. One of the saddest features of the in- 
stitution was to be seen there in its aggravated form — the 
slave market. The better class of slave-holders of the South, 
who looked on the institution as patriarchal, and who 
guarded their slaves with conscientious care, knew little, 
it should be said, of this terrible traffic. Their transfer of 
slaves was humane, but in the open markets of the city it was 
attended by shocking cruelty and degradation. Lincoln wit- 
nessed in New Orleans for the first time the revolting sight of 
men and women sold like animals. Mr. Herndon says that he 
often heard Mr. Lincoln refer to this experience: 

"In New Orleans for the first time," he writes, "Lincoln 
beheld the true horrors of human slavery. He saw 'negroes 
in chains — whipped and scourged/ Against this inhumanity 
his sense of right and justice rebelled, and his mind and con- 
science were awakened to a realization of what he had often 
heard and read. No doubt, as one of his companions has said, 
'slavery ran the iron into him then and there.' One morning 
in their rambles over the city the trio passed a slave auction. 
A vigorous and comely mulatto girl was being sold. She un- 
derwent a thorough examination at the hands of the bidders ; 
they pinched her flesh, and made her trot up and down the 
room like a horse, to show how she moved, and in order, as 
the auctioneer said, that 'bidders might satisfy themselves 


whether the article they were offering to buy was sound or 
not.' The whole thing was so revolting that Lincoln moved 
away from the scene with a deep feeling of 'unconquerable 
hate/ Bidding his companions follow him, he said : 'Boys, 
let's get away from this. If ever I get a chance to hit that 
thing' (meaning slavery), 'I'll hit it hard.' " 

Mr. Herndon gives John Hanks as his authority for this 
statement, but, according to Mr. Lincoln's autobiography, 
Hanks did not go on to New Orleans, but, having a family, 
and finding that he was likely to be detained from home 
longer than he had expected, he turned back at St. Louis. 
Though the story as told above probably grew to its present 
proportions by much telling, there is reason to believe that 
Lincoln was deeply impressed on this trip by something he 
saw in a New Orleans slave market, and that he often re- 
ferred to it. 



The month in New Orleans passed swiftly, and in June, 
1 83 1, Lincoln and his companions took passage up the river. 
He did not return, however, in the usual condition of the 
river boatman "out of a job." According to his own way of 
putting it, "during this boat-enterprise acquaintance with 
Offutt, who was previously an entire stranger, he conceived a 
liking for Abraham, and believing he could turn him to ac- 
count he contracted with him to act as a clerk for him on his 
return from New Orleans, in charge of a store and mill at 
New Salem." The store and mill were, however, so far only 
in Offutt's imagination, and Lincoln had to drift about until 
his employer was ready for him. He made a short visit to his 
father and mother, now in Coles County, near Charleston 
(fever and ague had driven the Lincolns from their first 
home in Macon County), and then, in July, 1831, he went to 
New Salem, where, as he says, he "stopped indefinitely, and 
for the first time, as it were, by himself." 

The village of New Salem, the scene of Lincoln's mercan- 
tile career, was one of the many little towns which, in the pio- 
neer days, sprang up along the Sangamon river, a stream 
then looked upon as navigable and as destined to be counted 
among the highways of commerce. Twenty miles northwest 
of Springfield, strung along the left bank of the Sangamon, 
parted by hollows and ravines, is a row of high hills. On 
one of these — a long, narrow ridge, beginning with a sharp 
and sloping point near the river, running south, and parallel 



with the stream a little way, and then, reaching its highest 
point, making a sudden turn to the west, and gradually- 
widening until lost in the prairie — stood this frontier village. 
The crooked river for a short distance comes from the east, 
and, seemingly surprised at meeting the bluff, abruptly 
changes its course, and flows to the north. Across the river 
the bottom stretches out half a mile back to the highlands. 
New Salem, founded in 1829 by James Rutledge and John 
Cameron, and a dozen years later a deserted village, is res- 
cued only from oblivion by the fact that Lincoln was once 
one of its inhabitants. The town never contained more than 
fifteen houses, all of them built of logs, but it had an ener- 
getic population of perhaps one hundred persons, among 
whom were a blacksmith, a tinner, a hatter, a schoolmaster 
and a preacher. New Salem boasted a grist-mill, a saw-mill, 
two stores and a tavern, but its day of hope was short. In 
1837 ^ began to decline and by 1840, Petersburg, two miles 
down the river, had absorbed its business and population. Sa- 
lem Hill is now only a green cow pasture. - ^ 

Lincoln's first sight of the town had been in April, 1831, 
when he and his crew had been detained in getting their flat- 
boat over the Rutledge and Cameron mill-dam. When he 
walked into New Salem, three months later, he was not alto- 
gether a stranger, for the people remembered him as the in- 
genious flat-boatman who had freed his boat from water by 
resorting to the miraculous expedient of boring a hole in the 

Offutt's goods had not arrived when Mr. Lincoln reached 
New Salem ; and he "loafed" about, so those who remember 
his arrival say, good-naturedly taking a hand in whatever he 
could find to do, and in his droll way making friends of ev- 
erybody. By chance, a bit of work fell to him almost at once, 
which introduced him generally and gave him an opportunity 


to make a name in the neighborhood. It was election day. In 
those days elections in Illinois were conducted by the viva 
voce method. The people did try voting by ballot, but the ex- 
periment was unpopular. It required too much form and 
in 1829 the former method of voting was restored. The 
judges and clerks sat at a table with the poll-book before 
them. The voter walked up, and announced the candidate of 
his choice, and it was recorded in his presence. There was no 
ticket peddling, and ballot-box stuffing was impossible. The 
village school-master, Mentor Graham by name, was clerk at 
this particular election, but his assistant was ill. Looking 
about for some one to help him, Mr. Graham saw a tall 
stranger loitering around the polling-place, and called to 
him : " Can you write ? " " Yes," said the stranger, " I can 
make a few rabbit tracks." Mr. Graham evidently was satis- 
fied with the answer, for he promptly initiated him ; and he 
filled his place not only to the satisfaction of his employer, 
but also to the delectation of the loiterers about the polls, for 
whenever things dragged he immediately began " to spin out 
a stock of Indian yarns." So droll were they that men who 
listened to Lincoln that day repeated them long after to their 
friends. He had made a hit in New Salem, to start with, and 
here, as in Sangamon town, it was by means of his story-tell- 

A few days later he accepted an offer to pilot down the 
Sangamon and Illinois rivers, as far as Beardstown, a flat- 
boat bearing the family and goods of a pioneer bound for 
Texas. At Beardstown he found Offutt's goods, waiting to 
be taken to New Salem. As he footed his way home he found 
two men with a wagon and ox-team going for the goods. 
Offutt had expected Lincoln to wait at Beardstown until the 
ox-team arrived, and the teamsters, not having any creden- 
tials, asked Lincoln to give them an order for the goods. 


This, sitting down by the roadside, he wrote out ; one of the 
men used to relate that it contained a misspelled word, which 
he corrected. 

When the oxen and their drivers returned with the goods, 
the store was opened in a little log house on the brink of the 
hill, almost over the river. The precise date of the opening 
of Denton Offutt's store is not known. We only know that 
on July 8, 1831, the County Commissioners' Court of Sanga- 
mon County granted Offutt a license to retail merchandise 
at New Salern, for which he paid five dollars, a fee which 
supposed him to have one thousand dollars' worth of goods 
in stock. 

The frontier store filled a unique place. Usually it was a 
" general store," and on its shelves were found most of the 
articles needed in a community of pioneers. But supplying 
goods and groceries was not its only function ; it was the pio- 
neer's intellectual and social center. It was the common meet- 
ing-place of the farmers, the happy refuge of the village 
loungers. No subject was unknown there. The habitues of 
the place were equally at home in discussing politics, reli- 
gion, or sports. Stories were told, jokes were cracked, and 
the news contained in the latest newspaper finding its way 
into the wilderness was repeated again and again. Lincoln 
could hardly have chosen surroundings more favorable to 
the highest development of the art of story-telling, and he 
had not been there long before his reputation for drollery 
was established. 

But he gained popularity and respect in other ways. There 
was near the village a settlement called Clary's Grove, the 
most conspicuous part of whose population was an organiza- 
tion known as the " Clary's Grove Boys." They exercised a 
veritable terror over the neighborhood, and yet they were not 
a bad set of fellows. Mr. Herndon, who knew personally 
many of the " boys," says : 


"They were friendly and good-natured ; they could trench 
a pond, dig a bog, build a house ; they could pray and fight, 
make a village or create a state. They would do almost any- 
thing for sport or fun, love or necessity. Though rude and 
rough, though life's forces ran over the edge of the bowl, 
foaming and sparkling in pure deviltry for deviltry's sake, 
yet place before them a poor man who needed their aid, a 
lame or sick man, a defenceless woman, a widow, or an or- 
phaned child, they melted into sympathy and charity at once. 
They gave all they had, and willingly toiled or played cards 
for more. Though there never was under the sun a more 
generous parcel of rowdies, a stranger's introduction was 
likely to be the most unpleasant part of his acquaintance with 
them. ,, 

Denton Offutt, Lincoln's employer, was just the man to 
love to boast before such a crowd. He seemed to feel that 
Lincoln's physical prowess shed glory on himself, and he de- 
clared the country over that his clerk could lift more, throw 
farther, run faster, jump higher, and wrestle better than any 
man in Sangamon county. The Clary's Grove Boys, of 
course, felt in honor bound to prove this false, and they ap- 
pointed their best man, one Jack Armstrong, to "throw Abe." 
Jack Armstrong was, according to the testimony of all who 
remember him, a "powerful twister," "square built and 
strong as an ox," "the best-made man that ever lived;" and 
everybody knew that a contest between him and Lincoln 
would be close. Lincoln did not like to "tussle and scuffle," 
he objected to "woolling and pulling;" but Offutt had gone 
so far that it became necessary to yield. The match was held 
on the ground near the grocery. Clary's Grove and New Sa- 
lem turned out generally to witness the bout, and betting on 
the result ran high, the community as a whole staking their 
jack-knives, tobacco plugs, and "treats" on Armstrong. The 
two men had scarcely taken hold of each other before it was 
evident that the Clary's Grove champion had met a match. 


The two men wrestled long and hard, but both kept their feet. 
Neither could throw the other, and Armstrong, convinced of 
this, tried a "foul." Lincoln no sooner realized the game of 
his antagonist than, furious with indignation, he caught him 
by the throat, and holding him out at arm's length, he "shook 
him like a child." Armstrong's friends rushed to his aid, and 
for a moment it looked as if Lincoln would be routed by sheer 
force of numbers; but he held his own so bravely that the 
"boys," in spite of their sympathies, were filled with admira- 
tion. What bid fair to be a general fight ended in a general 
hand-shake, even Jack Armstrong declaring that Lincoln was 
the "best fellow who ever broke into the camp." From that 
day, at the cock-fights and horse-races, which were their 
common sports, he became the chosen umpire ; and when the 
entertainment broke up in a row — a not uncommon occur- 
rence — he acted the peacemaker without suffering the peace- 
maker's usual fate. Such was his reputation with the 
"Clary's Grove Boys," after three months in New Salem, 
that when the fall muster came off he was elected captain. 

Lincoln showed soon that if he was unwilling to indulge in 
"woolling and pulling" for amusement, he did not object to 
it in the interests of decency and order. In such a community 
as New Salem there are always braggarts who can only be 
made endurable by fear. To them Lincoln soon became an au- 
thority more to be respected than sheriff or constable. If they 
transgressed in his presence he thrashed them promptly with 
an imperturbable air, half indolent, but wholly resolute which 
was more baffling and impressive than even his iron grip and 
well-directed blows. A man came into the store one day and 
began swearing. Now, profanity in the presence of women, 
Lincoln never would allow. He asked the man to stop; but 
he persisted, loudly boasting that nobody should prevent his 
saying what he wanted to. The women gone, the man began 
to abuse Lincoln so hotly that the latter said : "Well, if you 

if i £ 

Ha ] 





JLCcaxe axibo a*" 4jfi4.*t-*+*. 



ffc* StSlBM OFPfcxCTUATtOS, EXER(jpEs'jM rAjaH'-STm^ 

a Kssr toVbcb EXEaa&BSv 


%4 i^ 




It is said that Lincoln learned this grammar practically hy heart. He presented the book to 
Ann Rutledge. After the death of Ann, it was studied by her brother, Robert, and is now owned 
bv his widow, at Casselton, North Dakota. The words, "Ann M. Rutledge is now learning 
erammar " were written by Lincoln. The order on James Rutledge to pay Daniel P. Nelson 
thirty dollars and signed "A. Lincoln for D. Offutt," was pasted upon the front cover of the 
book by Robert Rutledge. 

See vaQt 66,. 


must be whipped, I suppose I might as well whip you as any 
other man;" and going outdoors with the fellow, he threw 
him on the ground, and rubbed smart- weed into his eyes until 
he bellowed for mercy. New Salem's sense of chivalry was 
touched, and Denton Offutt's clerk became more of a hero 
than ever. 

His honesty excited no less admiration. Two incidents 
seem to have particularly impressed the community. Having 
discovered on one occasion that he had taken six and one- 
quarter cents too much from a customer, he walked three 
miles that evening, after his store was closed, to return the 
money. Again, he weighed out a half-pound of tea, as He 
supposed. It was night, and this was the last thing he did be- 
fore closing up. On entering in the morning he discovered a 
four-ounce weight in the scales. He saw his mistake, and 
closing up shop, hurried off to deliver the remainder of the 
tea. This unusual regard for the rights of others soon won 
him the title of "Honest Abe." 

As soon as the store was fairly under way, Lincoln began 
to look about for books. Since leaving Indiana in March, 
1830, he had had in his drifting life, little leisure or op- 
portunity for study, though a great deal for observation 
of men and of life. His experience had made him realize 
more and more clearly that power over men depends 
upon knowledge. He had found that he was himself supe- 
rior to many of those who were called the "great" men of 
the country. Soon after entering Macon county, in March, 
1830, when he was only twenty-one years old, he had found 
he could make a better speech than at least one man who was 
before the public. A candidate had came along where he and 
John Hanks were at work, and, as John Hanks tells the story, 
the man made a speech. "It was a bad one, and I said Abe 
could heat it. I turned down a box, and Abe made his speech. 
The other man was a candidate, Abe wasn't. Abe beat him 



to death, his subject being the navigation of the Sangamon 
river. The man, after Abe's speech was through, took him 
aside and asked him where he had learned so much, and how 
he could do so well. Abe replied, stating his manner and 
method of reading, what he had read. The man encouraged 
him to persevere." 

He studied men carefully, comparing himself with them. 
Could he do what they did ? He seems never up to this time 
to have met one who was incomprehensible to him. "I have 
talked with great men," he told his fellow-clerk and friend 
Greene, "and I do not see how they differ from others." 
Then he found, too, that people listened to him, that they 
quoted his opinions, and that his friends were already say- 
ing that he was able to fill any position. Offutt even de- 
clared the country over that "Abe" knew more than any 
man in the United States, and that some day he would be 

When he began to realize that he himself possessed the 
qualities which made men great in Illinois, that success de- 
pended upon knowledge and that already his friends cred- 
ited him with possessing more than most members of 
the community, his ambition was encouraged and his desire 
to learn increased. Why should he not try for a public posi- 
tion ? He began to talk to his friends of his ambition and to 
devise plans for self-improvement. In order to keep in prac- 
tice in speaking he walked seven or eight miles to debating 
clubs. "Practicing polemics," was what he called the exer- 
cise. He seems now for the first time to have begun to study 
subjects. Grammar was what he chose. He sought Mentor 
Graham, the schoolmaster, and asked his advice. "If you are 
going before the public," Mr. Graham told him, "you ought 
to do it." But where could he get a grammar ? There was but 
one, said Mr. Graham, in the neighborhood, and that was six 
miles away. Without waiting for further information, the 


young man rose from the breakfast-table, walked immedi- 
ately to the place and borrowed this rare copy of Kirkham's 
Grammar. From that time on for weeks he gave every mo- 
ment of his leisure to mastering the contents of the book. 
Frequently he asked his friend Greene to "hold the book" 
while he recited, and, when puzzled by a point, he would 
consult Mr. Graham. 

Lincoln's eagerness to learn was such that the whole 
neighborhood became interested. The Greenes lent him 
books, the schoolmaster kept him in mind and helped him as 
he could, and the village cooper let him come into his shop 
and keep up a fire of shavings sufficiently bright to read by at 
night. It was not long before the grammar was mastered. 
"Well," Lincoln said to his fellow-clerk, Greene, "if that's 
what they call a science, I think I'll go at another. ,, 

Before the winter was ended he had become the most popu- 
lar man in New Salem. Although he was but twenty-two 
years of age, in February, 1832, had never been at school an 
entire year in his life, had never made a speech except in de- 
bating clubs and by the roadside, had read only the books he 
could pick up, and known only the men who made up the 
poor, out-of-the-way towns in which he had lived, "encour- 
aged by his great popularity among his immediate neigh- 
bors," as he says himself, he decided to announce himself, in 
March, 1832, as a candidate for the General Assembly of the 

The only preliminary expected of a candidate for the leg- 
islature of Illinois at that date was an announcement stating 
his "sentiments with regard to local affairs." The circular in 
which Lincoln complied with this custom was a document of 
about two thousand words, in which he plunged at once into 
the subject he believed most interesting to his constituents — 
"the public utility of internal improvements." 

At that time the State of Illinois — as, indeed, the whole 


United States — was convinced that the future of the country 
depended on the opening of canals and railroads, and the 
clearing out of the rivers. In the Sangamon country the 
population felt that a quick way of getting to Beardstown on 
the Illinois river, to which point the steamer came from the 
Mississippi, was, as Lincoln puts it in his circular, "indis- 
pensably necessary." Of course a railroad was the dream of 
the settlers ; but when it was considered seriously there was 
always, as Lincoln says, "a heart-appalling shock accom- 
panying the amount of its cost, which forces us to shrink 
from our pleasing anticipations. The probable cost of this 
contemplated railroad is estimated at two hundred and 
ninety thousand dollars ; the bare statement of which, in my 
opinion, is sufficient to justify the belief that the improve- 
ment of the Sangamon river is an object much better suited 
to our infant resources. 

"Respecting this view, I think I may say, without the fear 
of being contradicted, that its navigation may be rendered 
completely practicable as high as the mouth of the South 
Fork, or probably higher, to vessels of from twenty-five to 
thirty tons burden, for at least one-half of all common years, 
and to vessels of much greater burden a part of the time. 
From my peculiar circumstances, it is probable that for the 
last twelve months I have given as particular attention to the 
stage of the water in this river as any other person in the 
country. In the month of March, 1831, in company with 
others, I commenced the building of a flatboat on the Sanga- 
mon, and finished and took her out in the course of the 
spring. Since that time I have been concerned in the mill at 
New Salem. These circumstances are sufficient evidence that 
I have not been very inattentive to the stages of the water. 
The time at which we crossed the mill-dam being in the last 
days of April, the water was lower than it had been since the 
breaking of winter in February, or than it was for several 
weeks after. The principal difficulties we encountered in de- 
scending the river were from the drifted timber, which ob- 
structions all know are not difficult to be removed. Knowing 


almost precisely the height of water at that time, I believe I 
am safe in saying that it has as often been higher as lower 

"From this view of the subject it appears that my calcula- 
tions with regard to the navigation of the Sangamon cannot 
but be founded in reason; but, whatever may be its natural 
advantages, certain it is that it never can be practically useful 
to any great extent without being greatly improved by art. 
The drifted timber, as I have before mentioned, is the most 
formidable barrier to this object. Of all parts of this river, 
none will require so much labor in proportion to make it 
navigable as the last thirty or thirty-five miles; and going 
with the meanderings of the channel, when we are this dis- 
tance above its mouth we are only between twelve and 
eighteen miles above Beardstown in something near a 
straight direction ; and this route is upon such low ground as 
to retain water in many places during the season, and in all 
parts such as to draw two-thirds or three-fourths of the river 
water at all high stages. 

"This route is on prairie land the whole distance, so that 
it appears to me, by removing the turf a sufficient width, and 
damming up the old channel, the whole river in a short time 
would wash its way through, thereby curtailing the distance 
and increasing the velocity of the current very considerably, 
while there would be no timber on the banks to obstruct its 
navigation in future; and being nearly straight, the tim- 
ber which might float in at the head would be apt to go clear 
through. There are also manr places above this where the 
river, in its zigzag course, forms such complete peninsulas as 
to be easier to cut at the necks than to remove the obstruc- 
tions from the bends, which, if done, would also lessen the 

"What the cost of this work would be, I am unable to say. 
It is probable, however, that it would not be greater than is 
common to streams of the same length. Finally, I believe 
the improvement of the Sangamon river to be vastly impor- 
tant and highly desirable to the people of the county ; and, if 
elected, any measure in the legislature having this for its ob- 
ject, which may appear judicious, will meet my approbation 
and receive my support." 


Lincoln could not have adopted a measure more popular. 
At that moment the whole population of Sangamon was in a 
state of wild expectation. Some six weeks before Lin- 
coln's circular appeared, a citizen of Springfield had adver- 
tised that as soon as the ice went off the river he would bring 
up a steamer, the "Talisman," from Cincinnati, and prove the 
Sangamon navigable. The announcement had aroused the 
entire country, speeches were made, and subscriptions taken. 
The merchants announced goods direct per steamship "Talis- 
man," the country over, and every village from Beardstown 
to Springfield was laid off in town lots. When the circular 
appeared the excitement was at its height. 

Lincoln's comments in his circular on two other subjects, 
on which all candidates of the day expressed themselves, are 
amusing in their simplicity. The practice of loaning money 
at exorbitant rates was then a great evil in the West. Lin- 
coln proposed that the limits of usury be fixed, and he closed 
his paragraph on the subject with these words, which sound 
strange enough from a man who in later life showed so pro- 
found a reverence for law : 

"In cases of extreme necessity, there could always be 
means found to cheat the law; while in all other cases it 
would have its intended effect. I would favor the passage of 
a law on this subject which might not be very easily evaded. 
Let it be such that the labor and difficulty of evading it could 
only be justified in cases of greatest necessity." 

A general revision of the laws of the State was the second 
topic which he felt required a word. "Considering the great 
probability," he said, "that the framers of those laws were 
wiser than myself, I should prefer not meddling with them, 
unless they were first attacked by others; in which case I 
should feel it both a privilege and a duty to take that stand 
which, in my view, might tend most to the advancement of 

Of course he said a word for educationj 


"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate 
any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it 
as the most important subject which we as a people can be 
engaged in. That every man may receive at least a moderate 
education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his 
own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate 
the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of 
vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing 
of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all 
being able to read the Scriptures, and other works both of a 
religious and moral nature, for themselves. 

"For my part, I desire to see the time when education — 
and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise, and industry 
— shall become much more general than at present, and 
should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute some- 
thing to the advancement of any measure which might have 
a tendency to accelerate that happy period." 

The audacity of a young man in his position presenting 
himself as a candidate for the legislature is fully equaled by 
the humility of the closing paragraphs of his announcement : 

"But, fellow-citizens, I shall conclude. Considering the 
great degree of modesty which should always attend youth, 
it is probable I have already been more presuming than 
becomes me. However, upon the subjects of which I have 
treated, I have spoken as I have thought. I may be wrong in 
regard to any or all of them ; but, holding it a sound maxim 
that it is better only sometimes to be right than at all times 
to be wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be errone- 
ous, I shall be ready to renounce them. 

"Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether 
it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so 
great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by 
rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall 
succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. I 
am young, and unknown to many of you. I was born, and 
have ever remained, in the most humble walks of life. I have 
no wealthy or popular relations or friends to recommend me. 
My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of 
the county; and, if elected* they will have conferred a favor 


upon me for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to 
compensate. But, if the good people in their wisdom shall see 
fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar 
with disappointments to be very much chagrined." 

Very soon after Lincoln had distributed his hand-bills, en- 
thusiasm on the subject of the opening of the Sangamon rose 
to a fever. The "Talisman" actually came up the river; 
scores of men went to Beardstown to meet her, among them 
Lincoln, of course, and to him was given the honor of pilot- 
ing her — an honor which made him remembered by many a 
man who saw him that day for the first time. The trip was 
made with all the wild demonstrations which always attended 
the first steamboat. On either bank a long procession of men 
and boys on foot or horse accompanied the boat. Cannons 
and volleys of musketry were fired from every settlement 
passed. At every stop speeches were made, congratulations 
offered, toasts drunk, flowers presented. It was one long hur- 
rah from Beardstown to Springfield, and foremost in the ju- 
bilation was Lincoln, the pilot. The "Talisman" went to the 
point on the river nearest to Springfield, and there tied up for 
a week. When she went back Lincoln again had the conspicu- 
ous position of pilot. The notoriety this gave him was prob- 
ably quite as valuable politically, as the forty dollars he 
received for his service was financially. 

While the country had been dreaming of wealth through 
the opening of the Sangamon, and Lincoln had been doing 
his best to prove that the dream would be realized, the store 
in which he clerked was "petering out" — to use his expres- 
sion. The owner, Denton Offutt, had proved more ambitious 
than wise, and Lincoln saw that an early closing by the 
sheriff was probable. But before the store was fairly closed, 
and while the "Talisman" was yet exciting the country, an 
event occurred which interrupted all of Lincoln's plans. 





One morning in April a messenger from the governor of 
the State rode into New Salem, scattering circulars. The 
circular was addressed to the militia of the northwest sec- 
tion of the State, and announced that the British band of 
Sacs and other hostile Indians, headed by Black Hawk, had 
invaded the Rock River country, to the great terror of the 
frontier inhabitants ; and it called upon the citizens who were 
willing to aid in repelling them, to rendezvous at Beardstown 
within a week. 

The name of Black Hawk was familiar to the people of 
Illinois. He was an old enemy of the settlers, and had been 
a tried friend of the British. The land his people had once 
owned in the northwest of the present State of Illinois had 
been sold in 1804 to the government of the United States, but 
with the provision that the Indians could hunt and raise 
corn there until it was surveyed and sold to settlers. Long 
before the land was surveyed, however, squatters had invaded 
the country, and tried to force the Indians west of the Miss- 
issippi. Particularly envious were these whites of the lands 
at the mouth of the Rock river, where the ancient village and 
burial place of the Sacs stood, and where they came each year 
to raise corn. Black Hawk had resisted their encroachments, 
and many violent acts had been committed on both sides. 

Finally, however, the squatters, in spite of the fact that the 
line of settlement was still fifty miles away, succeeded in 



evading the real meaning of the treaty and in securing a sur- 
vey of the desired land at the mouth of the river. Black 
Hawk, exasperated and broken-hearted at seeing his village 
violated, persuaded himself that the village had never been 
sold — indeed, that land could not be sold. 

"My reason teaches me/' he wrote, "that land cannot be 
sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon, 
and cultivate, as far as is necessary, for their subsistence; 
and so long as they occupy and cultivate it they have the right 
to the soil, but if they voluntarily leave it, then any other peo- 
ple have a right to settle upon it. Nothing can be sold but 
such things as can be carried away." 

Supported by this theory, conscious that in some way he 
did not understand he had been wronged, and urged on by 
White Cloud, the prophet, who ruled a Winnebago village on 
the Rock river, Black Hawk crossed the Mississippi in 1831, 
determined to evict the settlers. A military demonstration 
drove him back, and he was persuaded to sign a treaty never 
to return east of the Mississippi. "I touched the goose-quill 
to the treaty and was determined to live in peace," he wrote 
afterwards ; but hardly had he "touched the goose-quill' ' be- 
fore his heart smote him. Longing for his home, resentment 
at the whites, obstinacy, brooding over the bad counsels of 
White Cloud and his disciple, Neapope — an agitating Indian 
who had recently been east to visit the British and their In 
dian allies, and who assured Black Hawk that the Winneba- 
goes, Ottawas, Chippewas, and Pottawottomies would join 
him in a struggle for his land, and that the British would 
send him guns, ammunition, provisions, and clothing earl} 
in the spring- — all persuaded the Hawk that he would be suc- 
cessful if he made an effort to drive, out the whites. In spite 
of the advice of many of his friends and of the Indian agent 
in the country, he crossed the river on April 6, 1832, and with 


some five hundred braves, his squaws and children, marched 
to the Prophet's town, thirty-five miles up the Rock river. 

As soon as they heard of Black Hawk's invasion, the set- 
tlers of the northwestern part of the State fled in a panic to 
the forts ; and from there rained petitions for protection on 
Governor Reynolds. General Atkinson, who was at Fort 
Armstrong, wrote to the governor for reinforcements ; and, 
accordingly on the 16th of April Governor Reynolds sent out 
"influential messengers" with a sonorous summons. It was 
one of these messengers riding into New Salem who put an 
end to Lincoln's canvassing for the legislature, freed him 
from Oflutt's expiring grocery, and led him to enlist. 

There was no time to waste. The volunteers were ordered 
to be at Beardstown, nearly forty miles from New Salem, on 
April 22d. Horses, rifles, saddles, blankets were to be se- 
cured, a company formed. It was work of which the settlers 
were not ignorant. Under the laws of the State every able- 
bodied male inhabitant between eighteen and forty-five was 
obliged to drill twice a year or pay a fine of one dollar. "As a 
dollar was hard to raise," says one of the old settlers, "every- 
body drilled." 

Preparations were quickly made, and by April 2 2d the men 
were at Beardstown. The day before, at Richland, Sanga- 
mon County, Lincoln was elected captain of the company 
from Sangamon. 

According to his friend Greene it was something beside 
ambition which led him to seek the captaincy. One of the 
"odd jobs" which Lincoln had taken since coming 
into Illinois was working in a saw-mill for a man 
named Kirkpatrick. In hiring Lincoln, Kirkpatrick 
had promised to buy him a cant-hook with which 
to move heavy logs. Lincoln had proposed, if Kirk- 
patrick would give him the two dollars which the cant- 
hook would cost, to move the logs with a common hand- 


spike. This the proprietor had agreed to, but when pay-day 
came he refused to keep his word. When the Sangamon com- 
pany of volunteers was formed Kirkpatrick aspired to the 
captaincy, and Lincoln knowing it, said to Greene : "Bill, I 
believe I can make Kirkpatrick pay me that two dollars he 
owes me on the cant-hook. I'll run against him for captain.'* 
And he became a candidate. The vote was taken in a field, by 
directing the men at the command "march" to assemble 
around the one they wanted for captain. When the order was 
given, three-fourths of the men gathered around Lincoln. In 
Lincoln's third-person autobiography he says he was elected 
"to his own surprise;" and adds, "He says he has not since 
had any success in life which gave him so much satisfaction." 

The company was a motley crowd of men. Each had se- 
cured for his outfit what he could get, and no two were 
equipped alike. Buckskin breeches prevailed, and there 
was a sprinkling of coon-skin caps. Each man had a 
blanket of the coarsest texture. Flint-lock rifles were the 
usual arm, though here and there a man had a Cramer. Over 
the shoulder of each was slung a powder-horn. The men had, 
as a rule, as little regard for discipline as for appearances, 
and when the new captain gave an order were as likely to jeer 
at it as to obey it. To drive the Indians out was their mission, 
and any order which did not bear directly on that point was 
little respected. Lincoln himself was not familiar with mili- 
tary tactics, and made many blunders of which he used to tell 
afterwards with relish. One of these was an early experience 
in giving orders. He was marching with a front of over 
twenty men across a field, when he desired to pass through 
a gateway into the next inclosure. 

"I could not for the life of me," said he, "remember the 
proper word of command for getting my company endwise, 
so that it could get through the gate ; so, as we came near I 


shouted : This company is dismissed for two minutes, when 
it will fall in again on the other side of the gate !" 

Nor was it only his ignorance of the manual which caused 
him trouble. He was so unfamiliar with camp discipline that 
he once had his sword taken from him for shooting within 
limits. Another disgrace he suffered was on account of his 
disorderly company. The men, unknown to him, stole a quan- 
tity of liquor one night, and the next morning were too drunk 
to fall in when the order was given to march. For their law- 
lessness Lincoln wore a wooden sword two days. 

But none of these small difficulties injured his standing 
with the company. They soon grew so proud of his quick 
wit and great strength that they obeyed him because they 
admired him. No amount of military tactics could have se- 
cured from the volunteers the cheerful following he won by 
his personal qualities. 

The men soon learned, too, that he meant what he said, 
and would permit no dishonorable performances. A helpless 
Indian took refuge in the camp one day; and the men, who 
were inspired by that wanton mixture of selfishness, un- 
reason, and cruelty which seems to seize a frontiersman as 
soon as he scents a red man — were determined to kill the 
refugee. He had a safe conduct from General Cass ; but the 
men, having come out to kill Indians and not having suc- 
ceeded, threatened to take revenge on the helpless savage. 
Lincoln boldly took the man's part, and though he risked his 
life in doing it, he cowed the company and saved the Indian. 

It was on the 27th of April that the force of sixteen hun- 
dred men organized at Beardstown started out. The day 
was cold, the roads heavy, the streams turbulent. The army 
marched first to Yellow Banks on the Mississippi, then to 
Dixon on the Rock river, which they reached on May 12. 
At Dixon they camped, and near here occurred the first 
bloodshed of the wan 


A body of about three hundred and forty rangers, undei 
Major Stillman, but not of the regular army, asked to go 
ahead as scouts, to look for a body of Indians under Black 
Hawk, rumored to be about twelve miles away. The 
permission was given, and on the night of the 14th 
of May, Stillman and his men went into camp. Black 
Hawk heard of their presence. By this time the poor 
old chief had discovered that the promises of aid 
from the Indian tribes and the British were false, and 
dismayed, he had resolved to recross the Mississippi. 
When he heard the whites were near he sent three braves 
with a white flag to ask for a parley and permission to de- 
scend the river. Behind them he sent five men to watch 
proceedings. Stillman's rangers were in camp when the 
bearers of the flag of truce appeared. The men were many 
of them half drunk, and when they saw the Indian truce- 
bearers, they rushed out in a wild mob, and ran them into 
camp. Then catching sight of the five spies, they 
started after them, killing two. The three who 
reached Black Hawk reported that the truce-bearers 
had been killed as well as their two companions. 
Furious at this violation of faith, Black Hawk 
"raised a yell," and sallied forth with forty braves to meet 
Stillman's band, who by this time were out in search of the 
Indians. Black Hawk, too maddened to think of the dif- 
ference of numbers, attacked the whites. To his surprise 
the enemy turned, and fled in a wild riot. Nor did they stop 
at the camp, which from its position was almost impreg- 
nable ; they fled in complete panic, sauve qui pent, through 
their camp, across prairie and rivers and swamps, to Dixon, 
twelve miles away. The first arrival reported that two thou- 
sand savages had swept down on Stillman's camp and 
slaughtered all but himself. Before the next night all but 
eleven of the band had arrived. 


Stillman's Defeat, as this disgraceful affair is called, put all 
notion of peace out of Black Hawk's mind, and he started 
out in earnest on the warpath. Governor Reynolds, excited 
by the reports of the first arrivals from the Stillman stam- 
pede, made out that night, "by candle light," a call for more 
volunteers, and by the morning of the 15th had messengers 
out and his army in pursuit of Black Hawk. But it was like 
pursuing a shadow. The Indians purposely confused their 
trail. Sometimes it was a broad path, then it suddenly radi- 
ated to all points. The whites broke their bands, and pur- 
sued the savages here and there, never overtaking them, 
though now and then coming suddenly on some terrible evi- 
dences of their presence — a frontier home deserted and 
burned, slaughtered cattle, scalps suspended where the army 
could not fail to see them. 

This fruitless warfare exasperated the volunteers; they 
threatened to leave, and their officers had great difficulty in 
making them obey orders. On reaching a point in the Rock 
river, beyond which lay the Indian country, a company 
under Colonel Zachary Taylor refused to cross, and held a 
public indignation meeting, urging that they had volunteered 
to defend the State, and had the right, as independent Ameri- 
can citizens, to refuse to go out of its borders. Taylor heard 
them to the end, and then spoke : "I feel that all gentlemen 
here are my equals ; in reality, I am persuaded that many of 
them will, in a few years, be my superiors, and perhaps, in 
the capacity of members of Congress, arbiters of the fortunes 
and reputation of humble servants of the republic, 
like myself. I expect then to obey them as interpreters 
of the will of the people; and the best proof that I 
will obey them is now to observe the orders of those whom 
the people have already put in the place of authority to which 
many gentlemen around me justly aspire. In plain English, 
gentlemen and fellow-citizens, the word has been passed on 


to me from Washington to follow Black Hawk and to take 
you with me as soldiers. I mean to do both. There are 
the flatboats drawn up on the shore, and here are Uncle 
Sam's men drawn up behind you on the prairie. " The volun- 
teers knew true grit when they met it. They dissolved their 
meeting and crossed the river without Uncle Sam's men 
being called into action. 

The march in pursuit of the Indians led the army to 
Ottawa, where the volunteers became so dissatisfied that on 
May 2J and 28 Governor Reynolds mustered them out. 
But a force in the field was essential until a new levy was 
raised ; and a few of the men were patriotic enough to offer 
their services, among them Lincoln, who on May 29 was 
mustered in at the mouth of the Fox river by a man in whom, 
thirty years later, he was to have a keen interest — General 
Robert Anderson, commander at Fort Sumter in 1861. Lin- 
coln became a private in Captain Elijah Iles's company of 
Independent Rangers, not brigaded— a company made up, 
says Captain lies in his "Footsteps and Wanderings," of 
"generals, colonels, captains, and distinguished men from 
the disbanded army." General Anderson says that at this 
muster Lincoln's arms were valued at forty dollars, his horse 
and equipment at one hundred and twenty dollars. The In- 
dependent Rangers were a favored body, used to carry mes- 
sages and to spy on the enemy. They had no camp duties, 
and "drew rations as often as they pleased." So that as a 
private Lincoln was really better off than as a captain.* 

The achievements and tribulations of this body of rangers 

*William Cullen Bryant, who was in Illinois in 1832 at the time of 
the Black Hawk War, used to tell of meeting in his travels in the State a 
company of Illinois volunteers, commanded by a "raw youth" of "quaint 
and pleasant" speech, and of learning afterwards that this captain was 
Abraham Lincoln. As Lincoln's captaincy ended on May 27th, and Mr. 
Bryant did not reach Illinois until June 12th, and as he never came 
nearer than fifty miles to the Rapids of the Illinois, where the body of 
rangers to which Lincoln belonged was encamped it is evident that the 


to which he belonged are told with interesting detail by its 
commanding officer, Captain lies, in his '"Footsteps and 

While the other companies were ordered to scout the 
country, he writes, mine was held by General Atkin- 
son in camp as a reserve. One company was ordered to go 
to Rock River (now Dixon) and report to Colonel Taylor 
(afterwards President) who had been left there with a few 
United States soldiers to guard the army supplies. The 
place was also made a point of rendezvous. Just as the com- 
pany got to Dixon, a man came in, and reported that he and 
six others were on the road to Galena, and, in passing 
through a point of timber about twenty miles north of Dixon, 
they were fired on and six killed, he being the only one to 
make his escape. . . . Colonel Taylor ordered the com- 
pany to proceed to the place, bury the dead, go on to Galena, 
and get all the information they could about, the Indians. 
But the company took fright, and came back to the Illinois 
river, helter-skelter. 

General Atkinson then called on me, and wanted to know 
how I felt about taking the trip; that he was exceedingly 
anxious to open communication with Galena, and to find out, 
if possible, the whereabouts of the Indians before the new 
troops arrived. I answered the general that myself and men 
were getting rusty, and were anxious to have something to 
do, and that nothing would please us better than to be or- 
dered out on an expedition ; that I would find out how many 
of my men had good horses and were otherwise well equip- 
ped, and what time we wanted to prepare for the trip. I 
called on him again at sunset, and reported that I had about 
fifty men well equipped and eager, and that we wanted one 
day to make preparations. He said go ahead, and he would 
prepare our orders. 

The next day was a busy one, running bullets and get- 
ting our flint-locks in order — we had no percussion locks 
then. General Henry, one of my privates, who had been 
promoted to the position of major of one of the companies, 

"raw youth" could not have been Lincoln, much as one would like to 
believe that it was. 



volunteered to go with us. I considered him a host, as he 
had served as lieutenant in the War of 1812, under General 
Scott, and was in the battle of Lundy's Lane, and several 
other battles. He was a good drill officer, and could aid me 
much. . . . After General Atkinson handed me my or- 
ders, and my men were mounted and ready for the trip, I 
felt proud of them, and was confident of our success, al- 
though numbering only forty-eight. Several good men 
failed to go, as they had gone down to the foot of the Illinois 
rapids, to aid in bringing up the boats of army supplies. We 
wanted to be as little encumbered as possible, and took noth- 
ing that could be dispensed with, other than blankets, tin 
cups, coffee-pots, canteens, a wallet of bread, and some fat 
side meat, which we ate raw or broiled. 

When we arrived at Rock River, we found Colonel Tay- 
lor on the opposite side, in a little fort built of prairie sod. 
He sent an officer in a canoe to bring me over. I said to the 
officer that I would come over as soon as I got my men in 
camp. I knew of a good spring half a mile above, and I de- 
termined to camp at it. After the men were in camp I called 
on General Henry, and he accompanied me. On meeting 
Colonel Taylor (he looked like a man born to command) he 
seemed a little piqued that I did not come over and camp with 
him. I told him we felt just as safe as if quartered in his one- 
horse fort, besides, I knew what his orders would be, and 
wanted to try the mettle of my men before starting on the 
perilous trip I knew he would order. He said the trip was 
perilous, and that since the murder of the six men all com- 
munications with Galena had been cut off, and it might be 
besieged ; that he wanted me to proceed to Galena, and that 
he would have my orders for me in the morning, and asked 
what outfit I wanted. I answered "Nothing but coffee, side 
meat and bread." 

In the morning my orders were to collect and bury the re- 
mains of the six men murdered, proceed to Galena, make a 
careful search for the signs of Indians, and find out whether 
they were aiming to escape by crossing the river below Gal- 
ena, and get all information at Galena of their possible 
whereabouts before the new troops were ready to follow 


John Dixon, who kept a house of entertainment here, 
and had sent his family to Galena for safety, joined us, and 
hauled our wallets of corn and grub in his wagon, which was 
a great help. Lieutenant Harris, U. S. A., also joined us. 
I now had fifty men to go with me on the march. I detailed 
two to march on the right, two on the left, and two in ad- 
vance, to act as look-outs to prevent a surprise. They were 
to keep in full view of us, and to remain out until we camped 
for the night. Just at sundown of the first day, while we 
were at lunch, our advance scouts came in under whip and 
reported Indians. We bounced to our feet, and, having a 
full view of the road for a long distance, could see a large 
body coming toward us. All eyes were turned to John 
Dixon, who, as the last one dropped out of sight coming over 
a ridge, pronounced them Indians. I stationed my men in a 
ravine crossing the road, where anyone approaching could 
not see us until within thirty yards ; the horses I had driven 
back out of sight in a valley. I asked General Henry to take 
command. He said, "No; stand at your post," and walked 
along the line, talking to the men in a low, calm voice. Lieu- 
tenant Harris, U. S. A., seemed much agitated; he ran up 
and down the line, and exclaimed, "Captain, we will catch 
hell!" He had horse-pistols, belt-pistols, and a double-bar- 
reled gun. He would pick the flints, reprime, and lay the 
horse-pistols at his feet. When he got all ready he passed 
'along the line slowly, and seeing the nerves of the men all 
quiet — after General Henry's talk to them — said, "Captain, 
we are safe; we can whip five hundred Indians." Instead of 
Indians, they proved to be the command of General Dodge, 
from Galena, of one hundred and fifty men, en route, to find 
out what had become of General Atkinson's army, as, since 
the murder of the six men, communication had been stopped 
for more than ten days. My look-out at the top of the hill 
did not notify us, and we were not undeceived until they got 
within thirty steps of us. My men then raised a yell and 
ran to finish their lunch. . . . 

When we got within fifteen miles of Galena, on Apple 
Creek, we found a stockade filled with women and children 
and a few men, all terribly frightened. The Indians had 
shot at and chased two men that afternoon, who made their 


escape to the stockade. They insisted on our quartering- in 
the fort, but instead we camped one hundred yards outside, 
and slept — what little sleep we did get — with our guns on our 
arms. General Henry did not sleep, but drilled my men all 
night ; so the moment they were called they would bounce to 
their feet and stand in two lines, the front ready to fire, and 
fall back to reload, while the others stepped forward to take 
their places. They were called up a number of times, and we 
got but little sleep. We arrived at Galena the next day, and 
found the citizens prepared to defend the place. They were 
glad to see us, as it had been so long since they had heard 
from General Atkinson and his army. The few Indians 
prowling about Galena and murdering were simply there as 
a ruse. 

On our return from Galena, near the forks of the Apple 
River and Gratiot roads, we could see General Dodge on the 
Gratiot road, on his return from Rock River. His six scouts 
had discovered my two men that I had allowed to drop in the 
rear — two men who had been in Stillman's defeat, and, hav- 
ing weak horses, were allowed to fall behind. Having weak 
horses they had fallen in the rear about two miles, and each 
took the other to be Indians, and such an exciting race I 
never saw, until they got sight of my company; then they 
came to a sudden halt, and after looking at lis a few mo- 
ments, wheeled their horses and gave up the chase. My two 
men did not know but that they were Indians until they 
came up with us and shouted "Indians !" They had thrown 
away their wallets and guns, and used their ramrods as 

The few houses on the road that usually accommodated 
the travel were all standing, but vacant, as we went. On 
our return we found them burned by the Indians. On my 
return to the Illinois River I reported to General Atkinson, 
saying that, from all we could learn, the Indians were aim- 
ing to escape by going north, with the intention of crossing 
the Mississippi river above Galena. The new troops had 
just arrived and were being mustered into service. My 
company had only been organized for twenty days, and 
as the time had now expired, the men were mustered out. 
All but myself again volunteered for the third time. 

Data does not exist for 
determining positively 
the route Lincoln followed 
in the Black Hawk War. 
Only the general direction of 
the marches of his company 
are indicated here. In goinL 
from Ottawa to Galena and bac 
Captain lies may have very well 
marched his company through 
Dixon's Ferry. In returning from 
Whitewater to New Salem, Lincoln 
may have followed the river to Dixon 
There were undoubtedly several side 
marches such as that on June 25, from 
Dixon to Kellogg's Grove and back, 
which are not shown in this map. 




It was the middle of June when Captain lies and his com- 
pany returned to Dixon's Ferry from their Indian hunt and 
were mustered out. On June 20 Lincoln was mustered in 
again, by Major Anderson, as a member of an independent 
company under Captain Jacob M. Early. His arms were 
valued this time at only fifteen dollars, his horse and equip- 
ments at eighty-five dollars. 

A week after re-enlistment Lincoln's company moved 
northward with the army. It was time they moved, for 
Black Hawk was overrunning the country, and scattering 
death wherever he went. The settlers were wild with fear, 
and most of the settlements were abandoned. At a sudden 
sound, at the merest rumor, men, women, and children fled. 
"I well remember these troublesome times," writes one 
Illinois woman. "We often left our bread dough unbaked 
to rush to the Indian fort near by." When Mr. John Bry- 
ant, a brother of William Cullen Bryant, visited the colony 
in Princeton in 1832, he found it nearly broken up on account 
of the war. Everywhere crops were neglected, for the able- 
bodied men were volunteering. William Cullen Bryant, 
who, in June, 1834, traveled on horseback from Peters- 
burg to near Pekin and back, wrote home : " Every few 
miles on our way we fell in with bodies of Illinois militia pro- 
ceeding to the American camp, or saw where they had en- 
camped for the night. They generally stationed themselves 
near a stream or a spring in the edge of a wood, and turned 
their horses to graze on the prairie. Their way was barked 
or girdled, and the roads through the uninhabited country 
were as much beaten and as dusty as the highways on New 
York island. Some of the settlers complained that they 
made war upon the pigs and chickens. They were a hard- 
looking set of men, unkempt and unshaved, wearing shirts of 
dark calico and sometimes calico capotes." 

Soon after the army moved up the Rock river, the inde- 


pendent spy company, of which Lincoln was a member, was 
sent with a brigade to the northwest, near Galena, in pursuit 
of the Hawk. The nearest Lincoln came to an actual 
engagement in the war was here. The skirmish of Kellogg' s 
Grove took place on June 25 ; Lincoln's company came up 
soon after it was over, and helped bury the five men killed. 
It was probably to this experience that he referred when he 
told a friend once of coming on a camp of white scouts one 
morning just as the sun was rising. The Indians had sur- 
prised the camp, and had killed and scalped every man. 

"I remember just how those men looked," said Lincoln, 
"as we rode up the little hill where their camp was. The red 
light of the morning sun was streaming upon them as they 
lay heads towards us on the ground. And every man had a 
round red spot on the top of his head about as big as a dollar, 
where the redskins had taken his scalp. It was frightful, 
but it was grotesque ; and the red sunlight seemed to paint 
everything all over." Lincoln paused, as if recalling the 
vivid picture, and added, somewhat irrelevantly, "I remem- 
ber that one man had buckskin breeches on." 

Early's company, on returning from their expedition, 
joined the main army on its northward march. By the end 
of the month the troops crossed into Michigan Territory — 
as Wisconsin was then called — and July was passed floun- 
dering in swamps and stumbling through forests, in pursuit 
of the now nearly exhausted Black Hawk. No doubt Early's 
company saw the hardest service on the march for to it was 
allotted the scouting. The farther the army advanced the 
more difficult was the situation. Finally the provisions gave 
out and July 10, three weeks before the last battle of the 
war, that of Bad Axe, in which the whites finally massacred 
most of the Indian band, Lincoln's company was disbanded 
at Whitewater, Wisconsin, and he and his friends started 
for home. The volunteers in returning: suffered much from 


hunger. More than one of them had nothing to eat on the 
journey except meal and water baked in rolls of bark laid 
by the fire. Lincoln not only went hungry on this return; 
he had to tramp most of the way. The night before his 
company started from Whitewater he and one of his mess- 
mates had their horses stolen; and, excepting when their 
more fortunate companions gave them a lift, they walked as 
far as Peoria, Illinois, where they bought a canoe, and pad- 
dled down the Illinois river to Havana. Here they sold the 
canoe, and walked across the country to New Salem. 



On returning to New Salem Lincoln at once plunged 
into "electioneering. " He ran as "an avowed Clay man/' 
and the country was stiffly Democratic. However, in those 
days political contests were almost purely personal. If the 
candidate was liked he was voted for irrespective of prin- 
ciple. "The Democrats of New Salem worked for Lincoln 
out of their personal regard for him," said Stephen T. Lo- 
gan, a young lawyer of Springfield, who made Lincoln's ac- 
quaintance in the campaign. "He was as stiff as a man 
could be in his Whig doctrines. They did this for him sim- 
ply because he was popular— because he was Lincoln." 

It was the custom for the candidates to appear at every 
gathering which brought the people out, and, if they had a 
chance, to make speeches. Then, as now, the farmers gath- 
ered at the county-seat or at the largest town within their 
reach on Saturday afternoons, to dispose of produce, buy 
supplies, see their neighbors, and get the news. During 
"election times" candidates were always present, and a reg- 
ular feature of the day was listening to their speeches. They 
never missed public sales, it being expected that after the 
"vandoo" the candidates would take the auctioneer's place. 

Lincoln let none of these chances to be heard slip. Ac- 
companied by his friends, generally including a few Clary's 
Grove Boys, he always was present. The first speech he 
made was after a sale at Pappsville. What he said there is not 
remembered ; but an illustration of the kind of man he was, 



interpolated into his discourse, made a lasting impression. 
A fight broke out in his audience while he was on the stand, 
and observing that one of his friends was being worsted, he 
bounded into the group of contestants, seized the fellow who 
had his supporter down, threw him, according to tradition, 
"ten or twelve feet" mounted the platform, and finished the 
speech. Sangamon County could appreciate such a perform- 
ance ; and the crowd at Pappsville that day never forgot Lin- 

His visits to Springfield were of great importance to him. 
Springfield was not at that time a very attractive place. 
Bryant, visiting it in June, 1832, said that the houses were 
not as good as at Jacksonville, "a considerable proportion of 
them being log cabins, and the whole town having an appear- 
ance of dirt and discomfort." Nevertheless it was the largest 
town in the county, and among its inhabitants were many 
young men of breeding, education, and energy. One of these 
men Lincoln had become well acquainted with in the Black 
Hawk War *-— Major John T. Stuart, at that time a lawyer, 
and, like Lincoln, a candidate for the General Assembly. He 
met others at this time who were to be associated with him 

*There were many prominent Americans in the Black Hawk War, 
with some of whom Lincoln became acquainted. Among the best known 
were General Robert Anderson ; Colonel Zachary Taylor ; General Scott, 
afterwards candidate for President, and Lieutenant-General ; Henry 
Dodge, Governor of the Territory of Wisconsin, and United States 
Senator; Hon. William D. Ewing and Hon. Sidney Breese, both United 
States Senators from Illinois ; William S. Hamilton, a son of Alexander 
Hamilton ; Colonel Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone ; Lieutenant 
Albert Sidney Johnston, afterwards a Confederate Genera] ; also Jeffer- 
son Davis, President of the Southern Confederacy. Davis was at this 
time a lieutenant stationed at Fort Crawford. According to the muster 
rolls of his company he was absent on furlough from March 26 to 
August 18, 1832, but, according to Davis's own statement, corroborated 
by many of the early settlers of Illinois who served in the Black Hawk 
War, Davis returned to duty as soon as he found there was to be a 
war. When Black Hawk was finally captured in August, after the 
battle of Bad Axe, he was sent down the river to Jefferson Barracks, 
under the charge of Lieutenant Jefferson Davis. Black Hawk, in his 
"Life," speaks of Davis as a "good and brave young chief, with whose 
conduct I was much pleased." 


more or less closely in the future in both law and politics, 
among them Judge Logan and William Butler. With these 
men the manners which had won him the day at Pappsville 
were of little value; what impressed them was his "very sen- 
sible speech," and his decided individuality and originality. 

The election came off on August 6th. Lincoln was de- 
feated. 'This was the only time Abraham was ever de- 
feated on a direct vote of the people," says his autobiographi- 
cal notes. He had a consolation in his defeat, however, for 
in spite of the pronounced Democratic sentiments of his pre- 
cinct, he received, according to the official poll-book in the 
county clerk's office at Springfield, two hundred and twenty- 
seven votes out of three hundred cast. 

This defeat did not take him out of politics. Six weeks 
later he filled his first civil office, that of clerk of the Septem- 
ber election. The report in his hand still exists, his first offi- 
cial document. In the following years few elections were 
held in New Salem at which Lincoln did not act as clerk. 

The election over, Lincoln began to look for work. One 
of his friends, an admirer of his physical strength, advised 
him to become a blacksmith, but it was a trade which 
afforded little leisure for study, and for meeting and talking 
with men; and he had already resolved, it is evident, that 
books and men were essential to him. The only employ- 
ment in New Salem which offered both employment and the 
opportunities he sought, was clerking in a store. Now the 
stores in New Salem were in more need of customers than 
of clerks, business having been greatly overdone. In the 
fall of 1832 four stores offered wares to the one hundred in- 
habitants of New Salem. The most pretentious was that of 
Hill and McNeill, which carried a large line of dry goods. 
The three others, owned respectively by the Herndon broth- 
ers, Reuben Radford, and James Rutledge, were groceries. 
Failing to secure employment at any of these establish- 


ments, Lincoln resolved to buy a store. He was not long in 
finding an opportunity to purchase. James Herndon had 
already sold out his half interest in Herndon Brothers' store 
to William F. Berry; and Rowan Herndon, not getting 
along well with Berry, was only too glad to find a purchaser 
of his half in the person of "Abe" Lincoln. Berry was as 
poor as Lincoln; but that was not a serious obstacle, for 
their notes were accepted for the Herndon stock of goods. 
They had barely hung out their sign when something hap- 
pened which threw another store into their hands. Reuben 
Radford had made himself obnoxious to the Clary's Grove 
Boys, and one night they broke in his doors and windows, 
and overturned his counters and sugar barrels. It was too 
much for Radford, and he sold out next day to William G. 
Greene, for a four-hundred-dollar note signed by Greene. 
At the latter's request, Lincoln made an inventory of the 
stock, and offered him six hundred and fifty dollars for it — 
a proposition which was cheerfully accepted. Berry and 
Lincoln, being unable to pay cash, assumed the four-hun- 
dred-dollar note payable to Radford, and gave Greene their 
joint note for two hundred and fifty dollars. The little 
grocery owned by James Rutledge was the next to suc- 
cumb. Berry and Lincoln bought it at a bargain, their 
joint note taking the place of cash. The three stocks were 
consolidated. Their aggregate cost must have been not 
less than fifteen hundred dollars. Berry and Lincoln had 
secured a monopoly of the grocery business in New Salem. 
Within a few weeks two penniless men had become the pro- 
prietors of three stores, and had stopped buying only be- 
cause there were no more to purchase. 

But the partnership, it was soon evident, was unfortunate. 
Berry, though the son of a Presbyterian minister, was 
according to tradition "a very wicked young man," drinking, 
gambling:, and taking an active part in all the disturbances 


of the neighborhood. In spite of the bad habits of his part- 
ner, Lincoln left the management of the business largely to 
him. It was his love of books which was responsible for 
this poor business management. He had soon discovered 
that store-keeping in New Salem, after all duties were done, 
left a large amount of leisure on a man's hands. It was his 
chance to read, and he scoured the town for books. On 
pleasant days he spent hour after hour stretched under a 
tree, which stood just outside the door of the store, reading 
the works he had picked up. If it rained he simply made 
himself comfortable on the counter within. It was in this 
period that Lincoln discovered Shakespeare and Burns. In 
New Salem there was one of those curious individuals, some- 
times found in frontier settlements, half poet, half loafer, in- 
capable of earning a living in any steady employment, yet 
familiar with good literature and capable of enjoying it — 
Jack Kelso. He repeated passages from Shakespeare and 
Burns incessantly, over the odd jobs he undertook, or as he 
idled by the streams — for he was a famous fisherman — and 
Lincoln soon became one of his constant companions. The 
tastes he formed in company with Kelso he retained through 

It was not only Burns and Shakespeare that interfered 
with the grocery keeping; Lincoln had begun seriously to 
read law. His first acquaintance with the subject, we have 
already seen, had been made when, a mere lad, a copy of the 
"Revised Statutes of Indiana" had fallen into his hands. 

But from the time he left Indiana in 1830 he had no legal 
reading until one day soon after the grocery was started, 
there happened one of those trivial incidents which so 
often turn the current of a life. It is best told in Mr. Lin- 
coln's own words.* "One day a man who was migrating to 

*This incident was told by Lincoln to Mr. A. J. Conant, the artist, 
who in i860 painted his portrait in Springfield. Mr. Conant, in order 


the West drove up in front of my store with a wagon which 
contained his family and household plunder. He asked me 
if I would buy an old barrel for which he had no room in his 
wagon, and which he said contained nothing of special value. 
I did not want it, but to oblige him I bought it, and paid him, 
I think, half a dollar for it. Without further examination I 
put it away in the store, and forgot all about it. Some time 
after, in overhauling things, I came upon the barrel, and 
emptying it upon the floor to see what it contained, I found at 
the bottom of the rubbish a complete edition of Blackstone's 
Commentaries. I began to read those famous works, and I 
had plenty of time ; for during the long summer days, when 
the farmers were busy with their crops, my customers were 
few and far between. The more I read" — this he said with 
unusual emphasis — "the more intensely interested I became. 
Never in my whole life was my mind so thoroughly absorbed. 
I read until I devoured them." 

But all this was fatal to business, and by spring it was evi- 
dent that something must be done to stimulate the grocery 
sales. Liquor selling was the expedient adopted, for, on the 
6th of March, 1833, the County Commissioners' Court of 
Sangamon County granted the firm of Berry and Lincoln 
a license to keep a tavern at New Salem. It is probable that 
the license was procured not to enable the firm to keep a 
tavern but to retail the liquors which they had in stock. 
Each of the three groceries which Berry and Lincoln ac- 
quired had the usual supply of liquors and it was only natural 
that they should seek a way to dispose of the surplus quickly 
and profitably — an end Which could be best accomplished by 
selling it over the counter by the glass. To do this lawfully 

to catch Mr. Lincoln's pleasant expression, had engaged him in conver- 
sation, and had questioned him about his early life ; and it was in the 
course of their conversation that this incident came out. It is to be found 
in a delightful and suggestive article entitled, "My Acquaintance with 
Abraham Lincoln," contributed by Mr. Conant to the "Liber Scrip* 


required a tavern license ; and it is a warrantable conclusion 
that such was the chief aim of Berry and Lincoln in procur- 
ing a franchise of this character. We are fortified in this 
conclusion by the coincidence that three other grocers of 
New Salem were among those who took out tavern licenses. 

In a community in which liquor drinking was practically 
universal, at a time when whiskey was as legitimate an arti- 
cle of merchandise as coffee or calico, when no family was 
without a jug, when the minister of the gospel could take his 
"dram" without any breach of propriety, it is not surprising 
that a reputable young man should have been found selling 
whiskey. Liquor was sold at all groceries, but it could not 
be lawfully sold in a smaller quantity than one quart. The 
law, however, was not always rigidly observed, and it was 
the custom of storekeepers to treat their patrons. 

The license issued to Berry and Lincoln read as follows : 

Ordered that William F. Berry, in the name of Berry and 
Lincoln, have a license to keep a tavern in New Salem to con- 
tinue 12 months from this date, and that they pay one dollar 
in addition to the six dollars heretofore paid as per Treas- 
urer's receipt, and that they be allowed the following rates 

French Brandy per -J pt 25 

Peach " " " i8| 

Apple " " " 12 

Holland Gin " " 18J 

Domestic " " 12^ 

Wine " " 2s" 

Rum " " i8f 

Whiskey " " 12^ 

Breakfast, dinner or supper 25 

Lodging per night 12J 

Horse per night , , . 25 

Single feed . „ 12^ 

Breakfast, dinner or supper for Stage Passengers . . . . yj\ 
who gave bond as required by law. 


At the granting of a tavern license, the applicants there- 
for were required by law to file a bond. The bond given in 
the case of Berry and Lincoln was as follows : 

Know all men by these presents, we, William F. Berry, 
Abraham Lincoln and John Bowling Green, are held and 
firmly bound unto the County Commissioners of Sangamon 
county in the full sum of three hundred dollars to which 
payment well and truly to be made we bind ourselves, our 
heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents, 
sealed with our seal and dated this 6th day of March A. D. 
1833. Now the condition of this obligation is such that 
Whereas the said Berry & Lincoln has obtained a license 
from the County Commissioners' Court to keep a tavern in 
the town of New Salem to continue one year. Now if the 
said Berry & Lincoln shall be of good behavior and observe 
all the laws of this State relative to tavern keepers — then 
this obligation to be void or otherwise remain in full force. 

Abraham Lincoln [Seal] 
Wm. F. Berry [Seal] 

Bowling Green [Seal] 

This bond appears to have been written by the clerk of the 
Commissioners' Court; and Lincoln's name was signed by 
some other than himself, very likely by his partner 

Business was not so brisk in Berry and Lincoln's gro- 
cery, even after the license was granted, that the junior part- 
ner did not welcome an appointment as postmaster which he 
received in May, 1833. The appointment of a Whig by a 
Democratic administration seems to have been made without 
comment. "The office was too insignificant to make his poli« 
tics an objection," say his autobiographical notes. The du- 
ties of the new office were not arduous, for letters were few, 
and their comings far between. At that date the mails were 
carried by four-horse post-coaches from city to city, and on 
horseback from central points into the country towns. The 


rates of postage were high. A single-sheet letter carried 
thirty miles or under cost six cents ; thirty to eighty miles, 
ten cents ; eighty to one hundred and fifty miles, twelve and 
one-half cents ; one hundred and fifty to four hundred miles, 
eighteen and one-half cents; over four hundred miles, 

fc QL*, 


Reproduced by permission from " Menard-Salem-Lincoln Souvenir Album.** 
Petersburg, 1893. 

twenty-five cents. A copy of one of the popular magazines 
sent from New York to New Salem would have cost fully 
twenty-five cents. The mail was irregular in coming as well 
as light in its contents. Though supposed to arrive twice a 
week, it sometimes happened that a fortnight or more passed 


without any mail. Under these conditions the New Salem 
post-office was not a serious care. 

A large number of the patrons of the office lived in the 
country — many of them miles away — and generally Lincoln 
delivered their letters at their doors. These letters he would 
carefully place in the crown of his hat, and distribute them 
from house to house. Thus it was in a measure true that he 
kept the New Salem post-office in his hat. The habit of car- 
rying papers in his hat clung to Lincoln; for, many years 
later, when he was a practising lawyer in Springfield, he 
apologized for failing to answer a letter promptly, by ex- 
plaining: "When I received your letter I put it in my old 
hat, and buying a new one the next day, the old one was set 
aside, and so the letter was lost sight of for a time." 

But whether the mail was delivered by the postmaster him- 
self, or was received at the store it was the habit "to stop and 
visit awhile." He who received a letter read it and repeated 
the contents; if he had a newspaper, usually the postmaster 
could tell him in advance what it contained, for one of the 
perquisites of the early post-office was the privilege of 
reading all printed matter before delivering it. Every day, 
then, Lincoln's acquaintance in New Salem, through his 
position as postmaster, became more intimate. 

As the summer of 1833 went on, the condition of the store 
became more and more unsatisfactory. As the position of 
postmaster brought in only a small revenue, Lincoln was 
forced to take any odd work he could get. He helped in 
other stores in the town, split rails, and looked after the mill ; 
but all this yielded only a scant and uncertain support, and 
when in the fall he had an opportunity to learn surveying, he 
accepted it eagerly. 

The condition of affairs in Illinois in the early thirties 
made a demand for the service of surveyors. The immigra- 
tion had been phenomenal. There were thousands of farms 


to be surveyed and thousands of corners to be located. 
Speculators bought up large tracts and mapped out cities 
on paper. It was years before the first railroad was built in 
Illinois, and, as all inland traveling was on horseback or in 
the stage-coach, eath year hundreds of miles of wagon roads 
were opened through woods and swamps and prairies. As 
the county of Sangamon was large, and eagerly sought by 
immigrants, the county surveyor in 1833, one John Calhoun, 
needed deputies ; but in a country so new it was no easy mat- 
ter to find men with the requisite capacity. 

With Lincoln, Calhoun had little, if any, personal ac- 
quaintance, for they lived twenty miles apart. Lincoln, 
however, had made himself known by his meteoric race for 
the legislature in 1832, and Calhoun had heard of him as an 
honest, intelligent, and trustworthy young man. One day 
he sent word to Lincoln by Pollard Simmons, who lived in 
the New Salem neighborhood, that he had decided to appoint 
him a deputy surveyor if he would accept the position. 

Going into the woods, Simmons found Lincoln engaged 
in his old occupation of making rails. The two sat down 
together on a log, and Simmons told Lincoln what Calhoun 
had said. Now Calhoun was a "Jackson man;" he was for 
Clay. What did he know about surveying, and why should 
a Democratic official offer him a position of any kind ? He 
immediately went to Springfield, and had a talk with Cal- 
houn. He would not accept the appointment, he said, unless 
he had the assurance that it involved no political obligation, 
and that he might continue to express his political opinions 
as freely and frequently as he chose. This assurance was 
given. The only difficulty then in the way was the fact that 
he knew absolutely nothing of surveying. But Calhoun, of 
course, understood this, and agreed that he should have time 
to learn. 

With the promptness of action with which he always un^ 


dertook anything he had to do, Lincoln procured Flint and 
Gibson's treatise on surveying, and sought Mentor Graham 
for help. At a sacrifice of some time, the schoolmaster aided 
him to a partial mastery of the intricate subject. Lincoln 
worked literally day and night, sitting up night after night 
until the crowing of the cock warned him of the approaching 
dawn. So hard did he study that his friends were greatly 
concerned at his haggard face. But in six weeks he had mas- 
tered all the books within reach relating to the subject — a 
task which, under ordinary circumstances, would hardly 
have been achieved in as many months. Reporting to Cal- 
houn for duty (greatly to the amazement of that gentle- 
man), he was at once assigned to the territory in the north- 
west part of the county, and the first work he did of which 
there is any authentic record was in January, 1834. In that 
month he surveyed a piece of land for Russell Godby, dating 
the certificate January 14, 1834, and signing it "J- Calhoun, 
S. S. C, by A. Lincoln." 

Lincoln was frequently employed in laying out public 
roads, being selected for that purpose by the County Com- 
missioners' Court. So far as can be learned from the official 
records, the first road he surveyed was "from Musick's Ferry 
on Salt creek, via New Salem, to the county line in the di- 
rection of Jacksonville." For this he was allowed fifteen dol- 
lars for five days' service, and two dollars and fifty cents for 
a plat of the new road. The next road he surveyed, accord- 
ing to the records, was that leading from Athens to Sanga- 
mon town. This was reported to the County Commissioners' 
Court November 4, 1834. But road surveying was only a 
small portion of his work. He was more frequently em- 
ployed by private individuals. 

According to tradition, when he first took up the business 
he was too poor to buy a chain, and, instead, used a long, 
straight grape-vine. Probably this is a myth, though sur- 


veyors who had experience in the early days say it may be 
true. The chains commonly used at that time were made of 
iron. Constant use wore away and weakened the links, and 
it was no unusual thing for a chain to lengthen six inches 
after a year's use. "And a good grape-vine," to use the words 
of a veteran surveyor, "would give quite as satisfactory re- 
sults as one of those old-fashioned chains." 

Lincoln's surveys had the extraordinary merit of being 
correct. Much of the government work had been rather in- 
differently done, or the government corners had been im- 
perfectly preserved, and there were frequent disputes be- 
tween adjacent land-owners about boundary lines. Fre- 
quently Lincoln was called upon in such cases to find the cor- 
ner in controversy. His verdict was invariably the end of the 
dispute, so general was the confidence in his honesty and 
skill. Some of these old corners located by him are still in ex- 
istence. The people of Petersburg proudly remember that 
they live in a town which was laid out by Lincoln. This he 
did in 1836, and it was the work of several weeks. 

Lincoln's pay as a surveyor was three dollars a day, more 
than he had ever before earned. Compared with the compen- 
sation for like services nowadays it seems small enough ; but 
at that time it was really princely. The Governor of the State 
received a salary of only one thousand dollars a year, the 
Secretary of State six hundred dollars, and good board and 
lodging could be obtained for one dollar a week. But even 
three dollars a day did not enable him to meet all his financial 
obligations. The heavy debts of the store hung over him. 
He was obliged to help his father's family. The long dis- 
tances he had to travel in his new employment had made it 
necessary to buy a horse, and for it he had gone into debt. 

"My father," says Thomas Watkins, of Petersburg, who 
remembers the circumstances well, "sold Lincoln the horse, 
and my recollection is that Lincoln agreed to pay him fifty 

lift. Wl£ tv^K&U^tj/njLcto ^ oJfarisuCCZZL to /utjiMr 
Qajji- suu^€>C '£&£%> /US&. cCauv^, /P%*e*oi»» ££tC s&ojCzJj 

h: -is 

s4s GKUc,<r&o — 



*~y *~> $ GidZn.^?. »t $£ 

7 run*./ 





Jr Sfky* 

/3 W&fc' V*OM*d!> 



dollars for it. Lincoln was a little slow in making the pay- 
ments, and after he had paid all but ten dollars, my father, 
who was a high-strung man, became impatient, and sued him 
for the balance. Lincoln, of course, did not deny the debt, 
but raised the money and paid it. I do not often tell this," Mr. 
Watkins adds, "because I have always thought there never 
was such a man as Lincoln, and I have always been sorry 
father sued him." 

Between his duties as deputy surveyor and postmaster, 
Lincoln had little leisure for the store, and its management 
passed into the hands of Berry. The stock of groceries was 
on the wane. The numerous obligations of the firm were ma- 
turing, with no money to meet them. Both members of the 
firm, in the face of such obstacles, lost courage; and when, 
early in 1834, Alexander and William Trent asked if the 
store was for sale, an affirmative answer was eagerly given. 
A price was agreed upon, and the sale was made. Now, 
neither Alexander Trent nor his brother had any money ; but 
as Berry and Lincoln had bought without money, it seemed 
only fair that they should be willing to sell on the same terms. 
Accordingly the notes of the Trent brothers were accepted 
for the purchase price, and the store was turned over to the 
new owners. But about the time their notes fell due the 
Trent brothers disappeared. The few groceries in the store 
were seized by creditors, and the doors were closed, never to 
be opened again. Misfortunes now crowded upon Lincoln. 
His late partner, Berry, soon reached the end of his wild ca- 
reer, and one morning a farmer from the Rock Creek neigh- 
borhood drove into New Salem with the news that he was 

The appalling debt which had accumulated was thrown 
upon Lincoln's shoulders. It was then too common a fashion 
among men who became deluged in debt to "clear out," in 
the expressive language of the pioneer, as the Trents had 


done; but this was not Lincoln's way. He quietly settled 
down among the men he owed, and promised to pay them 
For fifteen years he carried this burden— a load which he 
cheerfully and manfully bore, but one so heavy that he habit- 
ually spoke of it as the "national debt." Talking once of it to 
a friend, Lincoln said: "That debt was the greatest obstacle 
I have ever met in life; I had no way of speculating, and 
could not earn money except by labor, and to earn by labor 
eleven hundred dollars, besides my living, seemed the work 
of a lifetime. There was, however, but one way. I went to 
the creditors, and told them that if they would let me alone 
I would give them all I could earn over my living, as fast as 
I could earn it." As late as 1848, so we are informed by Mr 
Herndon, Mr. Lincoln, then a member of Congress, sent 
home money saved from his salary, to be applied on these ob- 
ligations. All the notes, with interest at the high rates then 
prevailing, were at last paid. 

With a single exception Lincoln's creditors seemed to be 
lenient. One of the notes given by him came into the hands 
of a Mr. Van Bergen, who, when it fell due, brought suit 
The amount of the judgment was more than Lincoln could 
pay, and his personal effects were levied upon. These con- 
sisted of his horse, saddle and bridle, and surveying instru- 
ments. James Short, a well-to-do farmer living on Sand 
Ridge, a few miles north of New Salem, heard of the trouble 
which had befallen his young friend. Without advising Lin- 
coln of his plans, he attended the sale, bought in the horse 
and surveying instruments for one hundred and twenty dol- 
lars, and turned them over to their former owner. 

Lincoln never forgot a benefactor. He not only repaid the 
money with interest, but nearly thirty years later remem- 
bered the kindness in a most substantial way. After Lincoln 
left New Salem financial reverses came to James Short, and 
he removed to the far West to seek his fortune anew. Early 


in Lincoln's presidential term he heard that "Uncle Jimmy" 
was living in California. One day Mr. Short received a let- 
ter from Washington, D. C. Tearing it open, he read the 
gratifying announcement that he had been commissioned an 
Indian agent. 

The kindness of Mr. Short was not exceptional in Lin- 
coln's New Salem career. When the store had "winked out," 
as he put it, and the post-office had been left without head- 
quarters, one of his neighbors, Samuel Hill, invited the 
homeless postmaster into his store. There was hardly a man 
or woman in the community who would not have been glad 
to have done as much. It was a simple recognition on their 
part of Lincoln's friendliness to them. He was what they 
called "obliging" — a man who instinctively did the thing 
which he saw would help another, no matter how trivial or 
homely it was. In the home of Rowan Herndon, where he 
had boarded when he first came to the town, he had made 
himself loved by his care of the children. "He nearly always 
had one of them around with him," says Mr. Herndon. In 
the Rutledge tavern, where he afterwards lived, the landlord 
told with appreciation how, when his house was full, Lincoln 
gave up his bed, went to the store, and slept on the counter, 
his pillow a web of calico. If a traveler "stuck in the mud" 
in New Salem's one street, Lincoln was always the first to 
help pull out the wheel. The widows praised him because he 
"chopped their wood;" the overworked, because he was al- 
ways ready to give them a lift. It was the spontaneous, un- 
obtrusive helpfulness of the man's nature which endeared 
him to everybody and which inspired a general desire to do 
all possible in return. There are many tales told of homely 
service rendered him, even by the hard-working farmers' 
wives around New Salem. There was not one of them who 
did not gladly "put on a plate" for Abe Lincoln when he ap- 
peared, or would not darn or mend for him when she knew 


he needed it. Hannah Armstrong, the wife of the hero of 
Clary's Grove, made him one of her family. "Abe would 
come out to our house," she said, "drink milk, eat mush, 
cornbread and butter, bring the children candy, and rock the 
cradle while I got him something to eat. . . . Has stayed 
at our house two or three weeks at a time." Lincoln's pay 
for his first piece of surveying came in the shape of two buck- 
skins, and it was Hannah who "foxed" them on his trousers. 
His relations were equally friendly in the better homes of 
the community; even at the minister's, the Rev. John Cam- 
eron's, he was perfectly at home, and Mrs. Cameron was by 
him affectionately called "Aunt Polly." It was not only his 
kindly service which made Lincoln loved; it was his sym- 
pathetic comprehension of the lives and joys and sorrows and 
interests of the people. Whether it was Jack Armstrong and 
his wrestling, Hannah and her babies, Kelso and his fishing 
and poetry, the school-master and his books — with one and 
all he was at home. He possessed in an extraordinary degree 
the power of entering into the interests of others, a power 
found only in reflective, unselfish natures endowed with a 
humorous sense of human foibles, coupled with great tender- 
ness of heart. Men and women amused Lincoln, but so long 
as they were sincere he loved them and sympathized with 
them. He was human in the best sense of that fine word. 





Now that the store was closed and his surveying increased, 
Lincoln had an excellent opportunity to extend his acquaint- 
ance by traveling about the country. Everywhere he won 
friends. The surveyor naturally was respected for his call- 
ing's sake, but the new deputy surveyor was admired for his 
friendly ways, his willingness to lend a hand indoors as well 
as out, his learning, his ambition, his independence. 
Throughout the county he began to be regarded as a "right 
smart young man." Some of his associates appear even to 
have comprehended his peculiarly great character and dimly 
to have foreseen a splendid future. "Often," says Daniel 
Green Burner, at one time clerk in Berry and Lincoln's gro- 
cery, "I have heard my brother-in-law, Dr. Duncan, say he 
would not be surprised if some day Abe Lincoln got to be 
governor of Illinois. Lincoln," Mr. Burner adds, "was 
thought to know a little more than anybody else among the 
young people. He was a good debater, and liked it. He read 
much, and seemed never to forget anything." 

Lincoln was fully conscious of his popularity, and it 
seemed to him in 1834 that he could safely venture to try 
again for the legislature. Accordingly he announced himself 
as a candidate, spending much of the summer of 1834 in elec- 
tioneering. It was a repetition of what he had done in 1832, 
though on the larger scale made possible by wider acquaint- 
ance. In company with the other candidates he rode up and 


down the county, making speeches in the public squares, in 
shady groves, now and then in a log school-house. In his 
speeches he soon distinguished himself by the amazing can- 
dor with which he dealt with all questions, and by his curious 
blending of audacity and humility. Wherever he saw a 
crowd of men he joined them, and he never failed to adapt 
himself to their point of view in asking for votes. If the de- 
gree of physical strength was their test for a candidate, he 
was ready to lift a weight, or wrestle with the countryside 
champion ; if the amount of grain a man could cut would rec- 
ommend him, he seized the cradle and showed the swath he 
could cut. The campaign was well conducted, for in August 
he was elected one of the four assemblymen from Sanga- 

The best thing which Lincoln did in the canvass of 1834 
was not winning votes ; it was coming to a determination to 
read law, not for pleasure, but as a business. In his autobi- 
ographical notes he says : "During the canvass, in a private 
conversation, Major John T. Stuart (one of his fellow-candi- 
dates) encouraged Abraham to study law. After the election 
he borrowed books of Stuart, took them home with him and 
went at it in good earnest. He never studied with anybody." 
He seems to have thrown himself into the work with almost 
impatient ardor. As he tramped back and forth from Spring- 
field, twenty miles away, to get his law books, he read some- 
times forty pages or more on the way. Often he was seen 
wandering at random across the fields, repeating aloud the 
points in his last reading. The subject seemed never to be 
out of his mind. It was the great absorbing interest of his 
life. The rule he gave twenty years later to a young man who 
wanted to know how to become a lawyer, was the one he 
practiced : 

"Get books and read and study them carefully. Begin with 
Blackstone's 'Commentaries/ and after reading carefully 


through, say twice, take Chitty's 'Pleadings,' Greenleaf's 
'Evidence/ and Story's 'Equity/ in succession. Work, work, 
work is the main thing." 

Having secured a book of legal forms, he was soon able to 
write deeds, contracts, and all sorts of legal instruments ; and 
he was frequently called upon by his neighbors to perform 
services of this kind. "In 1834," says Daniel Green Burner, 
"my father, Isaac Burner, sold out to Henry Onstott, and he 
wanted a deed written. I knew how handy Lincoln was that 
way and suggested that we get him. We found him sitting 
on a stump. 'All right/ said he, when informed what we 
wanted. 'If you will bring me a pen and ink and a piece of 
paper I will write it here/ I brought him these articles, and, 
picking up a shingle and putting it on his knee for a desk, he 
wrote out the deed." 

As there was no practising lawyer nearer than Springfield, 
Lincoln was often employed to act the part of advocate be- 
fore the village squire, at that time Bowling Green. He real- 
ized that this experience was valuable, and never, so far as 
known, demanded or accepted a fee for his services in these 
petty cases. 

Justice was sometimes administered in a summary way in 
Squire Green's court. Precedents and the venerable rules of 
law had little weight. The "Squire" took judicial notice of a 
great many facts, often going so far as to fill, simultane- 
ously, the two functions of witness and court But his deci- 
sions were generally just. 

James McGrady Rutledge tells a story in which several of 
Lincoln's old friends figure and which illustrates the legal 
practices of New Salem. "Jack Kelso," says Mr. Rutledge, 
"owned, or claimed to own, a white hog. It was also claimed 
by John Ferguson. The hog had wandered around Bowling 
Green's place, until he felt somewhat acquainted with it. 
Ferguson sued Kelso, and the case was tried before 'Squire' 


Green. The plaintiff produced two witnesses who testified 
positively that the hog belonged to him. Kelso had nothing 
to offer, save his own unsupported claim. 

" 'Are there any more witnesses ?' inquired the court. 

"He was informed that there were no more. 

" 'Well/ said 'Squire' Green, 'the two witnesses we have 

heard have sworn to a lie. I know this shoat, and I 

know it belongs to Jack Kelso. I therefore decide this case 
in his favor/ " 

An extract from the record of the County Commissioners , 
Court illustrates the nature of the cases that came before the 
justice of the peace in Lincoln's day. It also shows the price 
put upon the privilege of working on Sunday, in 1832 : 

"January 29, 1832. — Alexander Gibson found guilty of 
Sabbath-breaking and fined \2\ cents. Fine paid into court. 
"(Signed) Edward Robinson, J. P." 

The session of the Ninth Assembly began December 1, 
1834, and Lincoln went to the capital, then Vandalia, sev- 
enty-five miles southeast of New Salem, on the Kaskaskia 
river, in time for the opening. Vandalia was a town which 
had been called into existence in 1820 especially to give the 
State government an abiding place. Its very name had been 
chosen, it is said, because it "sounded well" for a State capi- 
tal. As the tradition goes, while the commissioners were de- 
bating what they should call the town they were making, a 
wag suggested that it be named Vandalia, in honor of the 
Vandals, a tribe of Indians which, he said, had once lived on 
the borders of the Kaskaskia; this, he argued, would con- 
serve a local tradition while giving a euphonious title. The 
commissioners, pleased with so good a suggestion, adopted 
the name. When Lincoln first went to Vandalia it was a 
town of about eight hundred inhabitants; its noteworthy 


features, according to Peck's "Gazetteer" of Illinois for 
1834, being a brick court-house, a two-story brick edifice 
"used by State officers," "a neat framed house of worship for 
the Presbyterian Society, with a cupola and bell," "a framed 
meeting-house for the Methodist Society," three taverns, 
several stores, five lawyers, four physicians, a land office, and 
two newspapers. It was a much larger town than Lincoln 
had ever lived in before, though he was familiar with Spring* 
field, then twice as large as Vandalia, and he had seen the 
cities of the Mississippi. 

The Assembly which he entered was composed of eighty- 
one members — twenty-six senators and fifty-five repre- 
sentatives. As a rule, these men were of Kentucky, Tennes- 
see, or Virginia origin, with here and there a Frenchman. 
There were but few eastern men, for there was still a strong 
prejudice in the State against Yankees. The close bargains 
and superior airs of the emigrants from New England con- 
trasted so unpleasantly with the open-handed hospitality and 
the easy ways of the Southerners and French, that a pio- 
neer's prospects were blasted at the start if he acted like a 
Yankee. A history of Illinois in 1837, published evidently to 
"boom" the State, cautioned the emigrant that if he began 
his life in Illinois by "affecting superior intelligence and 
virtue, and catechizing the people for their habits of plain- 
ness and simplicity and their apparent want of those things 
which he imagines indispensable to comfort," he must expect 
to be forever marked as "a Yankee," and to have his pros- 
pects correspondingly defeated. A "hard-shell" Baptist 
preacher of about this date showed the feeling of the people 
when he said, in preaching of the richness of the grace of the 
Lord : "It tuks in the isles of the sea and the uttermust part 
of the yeth. It embraces the Esquimaux and the Hottentots, 
and some, my dear brethering, go so far as to suppose that it 
tuks in the poor benighted Yankees, but / don't go that fur/' 


When it came to an election of legislators, many of the peo- 
ple " didn't go that fur " either. 

There was a preponderance of jean suits like Lincoln's in 
the Assembly, and there were occasional coonskin caps and 
buckskin trousers. Nevertheless, more than one member 
showed a studied garb and a courtly manner. Some of th^ 
best blood of the South went into the making of Illinois, and 
it showed itself from the first in the Assembly. The sur- 
roundings of the legislators were quite as simple as the attire 
of the plainest of them. The court-house, in good old 
Colonial style, with square pillars and belfry, was finished 
with wooden desks and benches. The State furnished her 
law-makers few perquisites beyond their three dollars a day. 
A cork inkstand, a certain number of quills, and a limited 
amount of stationery were all the extras an Illinois legislator 
in 1834 got from his position. Scarcely more could be ex- 
pected from a State whose revenues from December 1, 1834, 
to December 1, 1836, were only about one hundred and twen- 
ty-five thousand dollars, with expenditures during the same 
period amounting to less than one hundred and sixty-five 
thousand dollars. 

Lincoln thought little of these things, no doubt. To him 
the absorbing interest was the men he met. To get ac- 
quainted with them, measure them, compare himself with 
them, and discover wherein they were his superiors and what 
he could do to make good his deficiency — this was his chief 
occupation. The men he met were good subjects for such 
study. Among them were William L. D. Ewing, Jesse K. 
Dubois, Stephen T. Logan, Theodore Ford, and Governor 
Duncan — men destined to play large parts in the history of 
the State. One whom he met that winter in Vandalia was 
destined to play a great part in the history of the nation — the 
Democratic candidate for the office of State attorney for the 
first judicial district of Illinois; a man four years younger 


than Lincoln — he was only twenty-one at the time; a new- 
comer, too, in the State, having arrived about a year before, 
under no very promising auspices either, for he had only 
thirty-seven cents in his pockets, and no position in view ; but 
a man of mettle, it was easy to see, for already he had risen so 
high in the district where he had settled, that he dared con- 
test the office of State attorney with John J. Hardin, one of 
the most successful lawyers of the State. This young man 
was Stephen A. Douglas. He had come to Vandalia from 
Morgan county to conduct his campaign, and Lincoln met 
him first in the halls of the old court-house, where he and 
his friends carried on with success their contest against 

The ninth Assembly gathered in a more hopeful and am- 
bitious mood than any of its predecessors. Illinois was feel- 
ing well. The State was free from debt. The Black Hawk 
war had stimulated the people greatly, for it had brought a 
large amount of money into circulation. In fact, the greater 
portion of the eight to ten million dollars the war had cost, 
had been circulated among the Illinois volunteers. Immigra- 
tion, too, was increasing at a bewildering rate. In 1835 the 
census showed a population of 269,974. Between 1830 and 
1835 two-fifths of this number had come in. In the northeast 
Chicago had begun to rise. "Even for a western town," its 
growth had been unusually rapid, declared Peck's "Gazet- 
teer," of 1834; the harbor building there, the proposed Michi- 
gan and Illinois canal, the rise in town lots — all promised to 
the State a great metropolis. To meet the rising tide of 
prosperity, the legislators of 1834 felt that they must devise 
some worthy scheme, so they chartered a new State bank, 
with a capital of one million five hundred thousand dollars, 
and revived a bank which had broken twelve years before, 
granting it a charter of three hundred thousand dollars. 
There was no surplus money in the State to supply the capi- 


tal; there were no trained bankers to guide the concern; 
there was no clear notion of how it was all to be done ; but a 
banking capital of one million eight hundred thousand dol- 
lars would be a good thing in the State, they were sure ; and 
if the East could be made to believe in Illinois as much as her 
legislators believed in her, the stocks would go; and so the 
banks were chartered. 

But even more important to the State than banks was a 
highway. For thirteen years plans for the Illinois and Michi- 
gan canal had been constantly before the Assembly. Sur- 
veys had been ordered, estimates reported, the advantages 
extolled, but nothing had been done. Now, however, the 
Assembly, flushed by the first thrill of the coming boom, 
decided to authorize a loan of a half-million on the credit of 
the State. Lincoln favored both these measures. He did 
not, however, do anything especially noteworthy for either 
of the bills, nor was the record he made in other directions 
at all remarkable. He was placed on the committee of pub- 
lic accounts and expenditures, and attended meetings with 
fidelity. His first act as a member was to give notice that he 
would ask leave to introduce a bill limiting the jurisdiction 
of justices of the peace — a measure which he succeeded in 
carrying through. He followed this by a motion to change 
the rules, so that it should not be in order to offer amend- 
ments to any bill after the third reading, which was not 
agreed to ; though the same rule, in effect, was adopted some 
years later, and is to this day in force in both branches of the 
Illinois Assembly. He next made a motion to take from the 
table a report which had been submitted by his committee, 
which met a like fate. His first resolution, relating to a 
State revenue to be derived from the sales of the public lands, 
was denied a reference, and laid upon the table. Neither 
as a speaker nor an organizer did he make any especial im- 
pression on the body. 


In the spring of 1835 the young representative from San- 
gamon returned to New Salem to take up his duties as post- 
master and deputy surveyor, and to resume his law studies. 
He exchanged his rather exalted position for the humbler 
one with a light heart. New Salem held all that was dear- 
est in the world to him at that moment, and he went back 
to the poor little town with a hope, which he had once sup- 
posed honor forbade his acknowledging even to himself, 
glowing warmly in his heart. He loved a young girl of that 
town, and now for the first time, though he had known her 
since he first came to New Salem, was he free to tell his love. 

One of the most prominent families of the settlement in 
1 83 1, when Lincoln first appeared there, was that of James 
Rutledge. The head of the house was one of the founders 
of New Salem, and at that time the keeper of the village 
tavern. He was a high-minded man, of a warm and gener- 
ous nature, and had the universal respect of the community. 
He was a South Carolinian by birth, but had lived many 
years in Kentucky before coming to Illinois. Rutledge came 
of a distinguished family : one of his ancestors signed the 
Declaration of Independence ; another was chief justice of the 
Supreme Court of the United States by appointment of 
Washington, and another was a conspicuous leader in the 
American Congress. 

The third of the nine children in the Rutledge household 
was a daughter, Ann Mayes, born in Kentucky, January 7, 
18 1 3. When Lincoln first met her she was nineteen years 
old, and as fresh as a flower. Many of those who knew her 
at that time have left tributes to her beauty and gentleness, 
and even to-day there are those living who talk of her with 
moistened eyes and softened tones. "She was a beautiful 
girl," says her cousin, James McGrady Rutledge, "and as 
bright as she was beautiful. She was well educated for that 
early day, a good conversationalist, and always gentle and 

Xj'd 09 



cheerful. A girl whose company people liked." So fair a 
maid was not, of course, without suitors. The most deter- 
mined of those who sought her hand was one John McNeill, 
a young man who had arrived in New Salem from New 
York soon after the founding of the town. Nothing was 
known of his antecedents, and no questions were asked. He 
was understood to be merely one of the thousands who had 
come west in search of fortune. That he was intelligent, 
industrious, and frugal, with a good head for business, was 
at once apparent ; for in four years from his first appearance 
in the settlement, besides earning a half-interest in a general 
store, McNeill had acquired a large farm a few miles north 
of New Salem. His neighbors believed him to be worth 
about twelve thousand dollars. 

John McNeill was an unmarried man — at least so he repre- 
sented himself to be — and very soon after becorrmg a resi- 
dent of New Salem he formed the acquaintance of Ann Rut- 
ledge, then a girl of seventeen. It was a case of love at first 
sight, and the two soon became engaged, in spite of the riv- 
alry of Samuel Hill, McNeill's partner. But Ann was as 
yet only a young girl ; and it was thought very sensible in 
her and considerate in her lover that both acquiesced in the 
wishes of Ann's parents that, for some time at least, the 
marriage be postponed. 

Such was the situation when Lincoln appeared in New 
Salem. He naturally soon became acquainted with the girl. 
She was a pupil in Mentor Graham's school, where he fre- 
quently visited, and rumor says that he first met her there. 
However that may be, it is certain that in the latter part of 
1832 he went to board at the Rutledge tavern and there was 
thrown daily into her company. 

During the next year, 1833, John McNeill, in spite of his 
fair prospects, became restless and discontented. He wanted 
to see his people, he said, and before the end of the year he 


decided to go East for a visit. To secure perfect free- 
dom from his business while gone, he sold out his interest 
in his store. To Ann he said that he hoped to bring back his 
father and mother, and to place them on his farm. "This 
duty done," was his farewell word, "you and I will be mar- 
ried." In the spring of 1834 McNeill started East. The 
journey overland by foot and horse was in those days a try- 
ing one, and on the way McNeill fell ill with chills and fever. 
It was late in the summer before he reached his home, and 
wrote back to Ann, explaining his silence. The long wait 
had been a severe strain on the girl, and Lincoln had watched 
her anxiety with softened heart. It was to him, the New 
Salem postmaster, that she came to inquire for letters. It 
was to him she entrusted those she sent. In a way the post- 
master must have become the girl's confidant ; and his tender 
heart must have been deeply touched. After the long silence 
was broken, and McNeill's first letter of explanation came, 
the cause of anxiety seemed removed ; but, strangely enough, 
other letters followed only at long intervals, and finally they 
ceased altogether. Then it was that the young girl told her 
friends a secret which McNeill had confided to her before 
leaving New Salem. 

He had told her what she had never even suspected before, 
that John McNeill was not his real name, but that it was 
John McNamar. Shortly before he came to New Salem, 
he explained, his father had suffered a disastrous failure in 
business. He was the oldest son; and in the hope of re- 
trieving the lost fortune, he resolved to go West, expecting 
to return in a few years and share his riches with the rest of 
the family. Anticipating parental opposition, he ran away 
from home ; and, being sure that he could never accumulate 
anything with so numerous a family to support, he endeav- 
ored to lose himself by a change of name. All this Ann had 


believed and not repeated ; but now, worn out by waiting, she 
took the story to her friends. 

With few exceptions they pronounced the story a fabrica- 
tion and McNamar an impostor. His excuse seemed flimsy. 
Why had he worn this mask ? At best, they declared, he was 
a mere adventurer; and was it not more probable that he 
was a fugitive from justice — a thief, a swindler, or a mur- 
derer? And who knew how many wives he might have? 
With all New Salem declaring John McNamar false, Ann 
Rutledge could hardly be blamed for imagining that he was 
dead or had forgotten her. 

It was not until McNeill, or McNamar, had been gone 
many months, and gossip had become offensive, that Lincoln 
ventured to show his love for Ann, and then it was a long 
time before the girl would listen to his suit. Convinced at 
last, however, that her former lover had deserted her, she 
yielded to Lincoln's wishes and promised, in the spring of 
1835, soon after Lincoln's return from Vandalia, to become 
his wife. But Lincoln had nothing on which to support a 
family — indeed, he found it no trifling task to support him- 
self. As for Ann, she was anxious to go to school another 
year. It was decided that in the autumn she should go with 
her brother to Jacksonville and spend the winter there in an 
academy. Lincoln was to devote himself to his law studies; 
and the next spring, when she returned from school and he 
had been admitted to the bar, they were to be married. 

A happy spring and summer followed. New Salem took 
a cordial interest in the two lovers and presaged a happy 
life for them, and all would undoubtedly have gone well if 
the young girl could have dismissed the haunting memory 
of her old lover. The possibility that she had wronged him, 
that he might reappear, that he loved her still,though she now 
loved another, that perhaps she had done wrong — a tortur- 
ing conflict of memory, love, conscience, doubt, and mor- 


bidness lay like a shadow across her happiness, and wore 
upon her until she fell ill. Gradually her condition became 
hopeless ; and Lincoln, who had been shut from her, was sent 
for. The lovers passed an hour alone in an anguished part- 
ing, and soon after, on August 25, 1835, Ann died. 

The death of Ann Rutledge plunged Lincoln into the deep- 
est gloom. That abiding melancholy, that painful sense of 
the incompleteness of life which had been his mother's dowry 
asserted itself. It filled and darkened his mind and his 
imagination tortured him with its black pictures. One 
stormy night Lincoln was sitting beside William Greene, his 
head bowed on his hand, while tears trickled through his 
fingers ; his friend begged him to control his sorrow, to try 
to forget. "I cannot," moaned Lincoln; "the thought of 
the snow and rain on her grave fills me with indescribable 

He was seen walking alone by the river and through the 
woods, muttering strange things to himself. He seemed 
to his friends to be in the shadow of madness. They kept 
a close watch over him ; and at last Bowling Green, one of 
the most devoted friends Lincoln then had, took him home 
to his little log cabin, half a mile north of New Salem, under 
the brow of a big bluff. Here, under the loving care of 
Green, and his good wife Nancy, Lincoln remained until he 
was once more master of himself. 

But though he had regained self-control, his grief was 
deep and bitter. Ann Rutledge was buried in Concord cem- 
etery, a country burying-ground seven miles northwest of 
New Salem. To this lonely spot Lincoln frequently jour- 
neyed to weep over her grave. "My heart is buried there," 
he said to one of his friends. 

When McNamar returned (for McNamar's story was 
true, and two months after Ann Rutledge died he drove into 
New Salem with his widowed mother and his brothers and 


sisters in the "prairie schooner" beside him) and learned of 
Ann's death, he "saw Lincoln at the post-office," as he after- 
ward said, and "he seemed desolate and sorely distressed." 
On himself apparently, her death produced no deep impres- 
sion. Within a year he married another woman; and his 
conduct toward Ann Rutledge is to this day a mystery. 

In later life, when Lincoln's sorrow had become a 
memory, he told a friend who questioned him : "I really and 
truly loved the girl and think often of her now." There was 
a pause, and then the President added : 

"And I have loved the name of Rutledge to this day." 

When the death of Ann Rutledge came upon Lincoln, for 
a time threatening to destroy his ambition and blast his life, 
he was in a most encouraging position. Master of a profes- 
sion in which he had an abundance of work and earned fair 
fees, hopeful of being admitted in a few months to the bar, 
a member of the State Assembly with every reason to believe 
that, if he desired it, his constituency would return him — few 
men are as far advanced at twenty-six as was Abraham Lin- 

Intellectually he was far better equipped than he believed 
himself to be, better than he has ordinarily been credited with 
being. True, he had had no conventional college training, 
but he had by his own efforts attained the chief result of all 
preparatory study, the ability to take hold of a subject and 
assimilate it. The fact that in six weeks he had acquired 
enough of the science of surveying to enable him to serve as 
deputy surveyor shows how well-trained his mind was. The 
power to grasp a large subject quickly and fully is never an 
accident. The nights Lincoln spent in Gentryville lying on 
the floor in front of the fire figuring on the fire-shovel, the 
hours he passed in poring over the Statutes of Indiana, the 
days he wrestled with Kirkham's Grammar, alone made the 
mastery of Flint and Gibson possible. His struggle with 


Flint and Gibson made easier the volumes he borrowed from 
Major Stuart's law library. 

Lincoln had a mental trait which explains his rapid 
growth in mastering subjects — seeing clearly was essential 
to him. He was unable to put a question aside until he un- 
derstood it. It pursued him, irritated him until solved. 
Even in his Gentryville days his comrades noted that he was 
constantly searching for reasons and that he "explained so 
clearly." This characteristic became stronger with years. 
He was unwilling to pronounce himself on any subject until 
he understood it, and he could not let it alone until he had 
reached a conclusion which satisfied him. 

This seeing clearly became a splendid force in Lincoln; 
for when he once had reached a conclusion he had the hon- 
esty of soul to suit his actions to it. No consideration could 
induce him to abandon the line of conduct which his reason 
told him was logical. Joined to these strong mental and 
moral qualities was that power of immediate action which so 
often explains why one man succeeds in life while another 
of equal intelligence and uprightness fails. As soon as Lin- 
coln saw a thing to do he did it. He wants to know ; here is 
a book — it may be a biography, a volume of dry statutes, a 
collection of verse ; no matter, he reads and ponders it until 
he has absorbed all it has for him. He is eager to see the 
world; a man offers him a position as a " hand " on a Mis- 
sissippi flatboat; he takes it without a moment's hesitation 
over the toil and exposure it demands. John Calhoun is will- 
ing to make him a deputy surveyor; he knows nothing of the 
science ; in six weeks he has learned enough to begin his la- 
bors. Sangamon county must have representatives, why not 
he? and his circular goes out. Ambition alone will not ex- 
plain this power of instantaneous action. It comes largely 
from that active imagination which, when a new relation 01 
position opens, seizes on all its possibilities and from them 


creates a situation so real that one enters with confidence 
upon what seems to the unimaginative the rashest undertak- 
ing. Lincoln saw the possibilities in things and immediately 
appreciated them. 

But the position he filled in Sangamon county in 1835 was 
not all due to these qualities ; much was due to his personal, 
charm. By all accounts he was big, awkward, ill-clad, shy — 
yet his sterling honor, his unselfish nature, his heart of the 
true gentleman, inspired respect and confidence. Men might; 
laugh at his first appearance, but they were not long in recog-j 
nizing the real superiority of his nature. 

Such was Abraham Lincoln at twenty-six, when the tragic 
death of Ann Rutledge made all that he had attained, all that 
he had planned, seem fruitless and empty. He was too sin- 
cere and just, too brave a man, to allow a great sorrow per- 
manently to interfere with his activities. He rallied his 
forces, and returned to his law, his surveying, his politics. 
He brought to his work a new power, that insight and 
patience which only a great sorrow can give. 




The Ninth General Assembly of Illinois held its opening 
session in the winter of 1834-35. It was Lincoln's first ex- 
perience as a legislator and it was rather a tame one, but in 
December, 1835, the members were called to an extra ses- 
sion which proved to be in every way more exciting and more 
eventful than its predecesso/s. The chief reason for its be- 
ing called was in itself calculated to exhilarate the hopeful 
young law-givers. A census had been taken since their last 
session and so large an increase in population had been re- 
ported that it was considered necessary to summon the as- 
sembly to re-apportion the legislative districts. When the re- 
apportionment was made it was found that the General As- 
sembly was increased by fifty members, the number of sen- 
ators being raised from twenty-six to forty, of representa- 
tives from fifty-five to ninety-one. A growth of fifty mem- 
bers in four years excited the imagination of the State. The 
dignity and importance of Illinois suddenly assumed new im- 
portance. It was imagined that the story of New York's 
growth in wealth and influence was to be repeated in this 
new country and every ambitious man in the assembly de- 
termined to lead in the rise of the State. 

The work on internal improvements begun in the 
previous session took a new form. The governor, in calling 
the members together, had said : "While I would urge the 
most liberal support of all such measures as tending with per- 
fect certainty to increase the wealth and prosperity of the 



State, I would at the same time most respectfully suggest the 
propriety of intrusting the construction of all such works 
where it can be done consistently with the general interest, to 
individual enterprise." The legislators acquiesced and in this 
session began to grant a series of private charters for inter- 
nal improvements which had they been carried out, would 
have given the State means of communication in 1840 al- 
most if not quite equal to those of to-day. The map on page 
135 shows the incorporations of railroad and canal com- 
panies made in the extra session of the Ninth Assembly, 
1835-36, and in the regular session of the Tenth, 1836-37; 
sixteen of the railroads were chartered in the former session. 

Lincoln and his colleagues did not devote their attention 
entirely to chartering railroads. Ten schools were chartered 
in this same session, some of which exist to-day. In the next 
session twelve academies and eighteen colleges received char- 

The absorbing topic of the winter, however, and the one 
in which Lincoln was chiefly concerned was the threatened 
naturalization of tl™ convention system in Illinois. Up to 
this time candidates for office in the United States had gen- 
erally nominated themselves as we have seen Lincoln doing. 
The only formality they imposed upon themselves was to 
consult a little unauthorized caucus of personal friends. Un- 
less they were exceptionally cautious persons the disapproval 
of this caucus did not stand in their way at all. So long as 
party lines were indistinct and the personal qualities of a 
candidate were considered rather than his platform this 
method of nomination was possible, but with party organiza- 
tion it began to change. In the case of presidential can- 
didates the convention with its delegates and platform had 
just appeared, the first full-fledged one being held but three 
years before, in 1832. Along with the presidential conven- 
tion came the "machine," an organization of all those wKo 


belonged to a party, intended to secure unity of effort. 
By means of primaries and conventions one candidate was 
put forward by a party instead of a dozen being allowed to 
offer themselves. The strength which the convention gave 
the Democratic party, which first adopted and developed it, 
was enormous. The Whigs opposed the new institution ; they 
declared it "was intended to abridge the liberties of the peo- 
ple by depriving individuals, on their own mere motion, of 
the privilege of becoming candidates and depriving each man 
of the right to vote for a candidate of his own selection and 

The efficacy of the new method was so apparent, however, 
that, let the Whigs preach as they would, it was rapidly 
adopted. In 1835 the whole machinery was well developed 
in New England and New York and had appeared in the 
West. In the north of Illinois the Democrats had begun to 
organize under the leadership of two men of eastern origin 
and training, Ebenezer Peck of Chicago, and Stephen A. 
Douglas of Jacksonville, and this session of the Illinois legis- 
lature the convention system became a subject of discussion. 

The Whigs, Lincoln among them, violently opposed the 
new scheme. It was a Yankee contrivance they said, favored 
only by New Englanders like Douglas, or worse still by 
monarchists like Peck. They recalled with pious indigna- 
tion that Peck was a Canadian, brought up under an aristo- 
cratic form of government, that he had even deserted the 
liberal party of this government to go over to the ultra- 
monarchists. They declared it a remarkable fact that no man 
born and raised west of the mountains or south of the Po- 
tomac had yet returned to vindicate "the wholesale system of 
convention. " In spite of Whig warnings, however, the con- 
vention system was approved by a vote of twenty-six to 

The Ninth Assembly expired at the close of this extra ses- 


sion and in June Lincoln announced himself as a candidate 
for the Tenth Assembly. A few days later the "Sangamon 
Journal" published his simple platform : 

"New Salem, June 13, 1836. 

"To the Editor of the 'Journal' : 

" In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication, 
over the signature of 'Many Voters,' in which the candidates 
who are announced in the 'Journal' are called upon to 'show 
their hands.' Agreed. Here's mine. 

"I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who 
assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for ad- 
mitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes o? 
bear arms (by no means excluding females). 

"If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon 
my constituents, as well those that oppose as those that sup- 
port me. 

"While acting as their representative, I shall be governed 
by their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of 
knowing what their will is; and upon all others I shall do 
what my own judgment teaches me will best advance their 
interests. Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the" 
proceeds of the sales of the public lands to the several States, 
to enable our State, in common with others, to dig canals and 
construct railroads without borrowing money and paying 
the interest on it. 

"If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote 
for Hugh L. White for President. 

"Very respectfully, 

"A. Lincoln." 

The campaign which Lincoln began with this letter was in 
every way more exciting for him than those of 1832 and 
1834. In the reapportionment of the legislative districts 
which had taken place the winter before Sangamon County's 
delegation had been enlarged to seven representatives and 
two senators. This gave large new opportunities to political 
ambition, and doubled the enthusiasm of political meetings. 


But the increase of the representation was not all that 
made the campaign exciting. Party lines had never before 
been so clearly drawn in Sangamon county, nor personal 
abuse quite so frank. One of Lincoln's first acts was to an- 
swer a personal attack. During his absence from New Salem 
a rival candidate passed through the place and stated pub- 
licly that he was in possession of facts which, if known to 
the public, would entirely destroy Lincoln's prospects at the 
coming election ; but he declared that he thought so much of 
Lincoln that he would not tell what he knew. Lincoln met 
this mysterious insinuation with shrewd candor. "No one 
has needed favors more than I," he wrote his rival, "and gen- 
erally few have been less unwilling to accept them; but in 
this case favor to me would be injustice to the public, and 
therefore I must beg your pardon for declining it. That I 
once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon County 
is sufficiently evident; and if I have done anything, either by 
design or misadventure, which if known would subject me 
to a forfeiture of that confidence, he that knows of that thing 
and conceals it is a traitor to his country's interest. 

"I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of 
what fact or facts, real or supposed, you spoke ; but my opin- 
ion of your veracity will not permit me for a moment to 
doubt that you at least believed what you said. I am flat- 
tered with the personal regard you manifested for me ; but I 
do hope that on mature reflection you will view the public 
interest as a paramount consideration and therefore let the 
worst come." 

Usually during the campaign Lincoln was obliged to meet 
personal attacks, not by letter, but on the platform. Joshua 
Speed, who later became the most intimate friend that Lin- 
coln probably ever had, tells of one occasion when he was 
obliged to meet such an attack on the very spur of the mo- 
ment. A great mass-meeting was in progress at Spring- 


field, and Lincoln had made a speech which had produced a 
deep impression. 

" I was then fresh from Kentucky," says Mr. Speed, " and 
had heard many of her great orators. It seemed to me then, 
as it seems to me now, that I never heard a more effective 
speaker. He carried the crowd with him, and swayed them 
as he pleased. So deep an impression did he make that 
George Forquer, a man of much celebrity as a sarcastic 
speaker and with a great reputation throughout the State as 
an orator, rose and asked the people to hear him. He began 
his speech by saying that this young man would have to be 
taken down, and he was sorry that the task devolved 
upon him. He made what was called one of his 'slasher-gaff' 
speeches, dealing much in ridicule and sarcasm. Lincoln 
stood near him, with his arms folded, never interrupting him. 
When Forquer was done, Lincoln walked to the stand, and 
replied so fully and completely that his friends bore him from 
the court-house on their shoulders. 

"So deep an impression did this first speech make upon me 
that I remember its conclusion now, after a lapse of thirty- 
eight years. 

" 'The gentleman commenced his speech/ he said, 'by say- 
ing that this young man would have to be taken down, and 
he was sorry the task devolved upon him. I am not so young 
in years as I am in the tricks and trade of a politician ; but 
live long or die young, I would rather die now than, like the 
gentleman, change my politics and simultaneous with the 
change receive an office worth three thousand dollars a year, 
and then have to erect a lightning-rod over my house to pro- 
tect a guilty conscience from an offended God/ 

"To understand the point of this it must be explained that 
Forquer had been a Whig, but had changed his politics, and 
had been appointed Register of the Land Office ; and over 
his house was the only lightning-rod in the town or county. 
Lincoln had seen the lightning-rod for the first time on the 
day before." 

This speech has never been forgotten in Springfield, and 
on my visits there I have repeatedly had the site of the house 



on which this particular lightning-rod was placed pointed 
out, and one or another of the many versions which the story 
has taken, related to me. 

It was the practice at that date in Illinois for two rival can- 
didates to travel over the district together. The custom led 
to much good-natured raillery between them; and in such 
contests Lincoln was rarely, if ever, worsted. He could even 
turn the generosity of a rival to account by his whimsical 
treatment. On one occasion, says Mr. Weir, a former resi- 
dent of Sangamon county, he had driven out from Spring- 
field in company with a political opponent to engage in joint 
debate. The carriage, it seems, belonged to his opponent. In 
addressing the gathering of farmers that met them, Lincoln 
was lavish in praise of the generosity of his friend. "I am 
too poor to own a carriage," he said, "but my friend has gen- 
erously invited me to ride with him. I want you to vote for 
me if you will ; but if not then vote for my opponent, for he 
is a fine man.' , His extravagant and persistent praise of his 
opponent appealed to the sense of humor in his rural au- 
dience, to whom his inability to own a carriage was by 
no means a disqualification. 

The election came off in August, and resulted in the choice 
of a delegation from Sangamon County famous in the annals 
of Illinois. The nine successful candidates were Abraham 
Lincoln, John Dawson, Daniel Stone, Ninian W. Edwards, 
William F. Elkins, R. L. Wilson, Andrew McCormick, Job 
Fletcher, and Arthur Herndon. Each one of these men was 
over six feet in height, their combined stature being, it is 
said, fifty-five feet. "The Long Nine" was the name Sanga- 
mon County gave them. 

As soon as the election was over Lincoln occupied himself 
in settling another matter, of much greater moment. He went 
to Springfield to seek admission to the bar. The "roll of at- 
torneys and counsellors at law," on file in the office of the* $i^4fca ' fet~2/&/SJf&jH&cifik 

<ti* J&vcuty 


/ » 





























/ | * 

4 1 J« 




e • 















, 2, 

/ ' 










clerk of the Supreme Court of Springfield, Illinois, shows 
that his license was dated September 9, 1836, and that the 
date of the enrollment of his name upon the official list was 
March 1, 1837. The first case in which he was concerned, as 
far as we know, was that of Hawthorne against Woolridge. 
He made his first appearance in court in October, 1836. 

Although he had given much time during this year to poli- 
tics and the law, he had by no means abandoned surveying. 
Indeed he never had more calls. The grandiose scheme of 
internal improvements initiated the winter before had stimu- 
lated speculation and Lincoln frequently was obliged to be 
away for three and four weeks at a time, laying out new 
towns or locating new roads. 

Every such trip added to his political capital. Such was 
his reputation throughout the country that when he got a 
job, says the Hon. J. M. Ruggles, a friend and political sup- 
porter, there was a picnic and jolly time in the neighbor- 
hood. Men and boys gathered from far and near, ready to 
carry chain, drive stakes, and blaze trees, if they could only 
hear Lincoln's odd stories and jokes. The fun was inter- 
spersed with foot races and wrestling matches. To this day 
the old settlers in many a place of central Illinois repeat the 
incidents of Lincoln's sojourns in their neighborhood while 
surveying their town. 

In December Lincoln put away his surveying instruments 
to go to Vandalia for the opening session of the Tenth As- 
sembly^ Larger by fifty members than its predecessor, this 
body was as much superior in intellect as in numbers. It in- 
cluded among its members a future President 01 the United 
States, a future candidate for the same high office, six future 
United States Senators, eight future members of the Na- 
tional House of Representatives, a future Secretary of the 
Interior, and three future Judges of the State Supreme Court. 
Here sat side by side Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. 


Douglas; Edward Dickinson Baker, who represented at dif- 
ferent times the States of Illinois and Oregon in the national 
councils ; O. H. Browning, a prospective senator and future 
cabinet officer, and William L. D. Ewing, who had just 
served in the senate; John Logan, father of the late General 
John A. Logan ; Robert M. Cullom, father of Senator Shelby 
M. Cullom; John A. McClernand, afterwards member of 
congress for many years, and a distinguished general in the 
late civil war ; and many others of national repute. 

The members came to Vandalia full of hope and exulta- 
tion. In their judgment it needed only a few months of leg- 
islation to put their State by the side of New York; and 
from the opening of the session they were overflowing with 
excitement and schemes. In the general ebullition of spirits 
which characterized the assembly, Lincoln had little share. 
Only a week after the opening of the session he wrote to a 
friend, Mary Owens, at New Salem, that he had been ill, 
though he believed himself to be about well then; and he 
added: "But that, with other things I cannot account for, 
have conspired, and have gotten my spirits so low that I feel 
I would rather be any place in the world than here. I really 
cannot endure the thought of staying here ten weeks." 

Though depressed, he was far from being inactive. The 
Sangamon delegation, in fact, had its hands full, and to no 
one of the nine had more been entrusted than to Lincoln. In 
common with almost every delegation, they had been in- 
structed by their constituents to adopt a scheme of internal 
improvements complete enough to give every budding town 
in Illinois easy communication with the world. This for the 
State in general; for Sangamon County in particular, they 
had been directed to secure the capital. The change in the 
State's centre of population made it advisable to move the 
seat of government northward from Vandalia, and Spring- 
field was anxious to secure it. To Lincoln was entrusted the 


work of putting through the bill to remove the capital. In 
the same letter quoted from above he tells Miss Owens : "Our 
chance to take the seat of government to Springfield is bet- 
ter than I expected." Regarding the internal improvements 
scheme he feels less confident : "Some of the legislature are 
for it, and some against; which has the majority, I cannot 

It was not long, however, before all uncertainty about in- 
ternal improvements was over. The people were determined 
to have them, and the assembly responded to their demands 
by passing an act which provided, at State expense, for rail- 
roads, canals, or river improvements in almost every county 
in Illinois. No finer bit of imaginative work was ever done, 
in fact, by a legislative body, than the map of internal im- 
provements laid out by the Tenth Assembly. 

With splendid disdain of town settlements and resources 
they ran the railroads into the counties they thought ought 
to be opened up, and if there was no terminus they laid out 
one. They improved the rivers and they dug canals, they 
built bridges and drained the swamps, they planned to make 
the waste places blossom and to people the forests with men. 
This project was to benefit every hamlet of the State, said its 
defenders, and to compensate the counties which were not to 
have railroads or canals they voted them a sum of money for 
roads and bridges. 

There was no time to estimate exactly the cost of these 
fine plans. Nor did they feel any need of estimates; that 
was a mere matter of detail. They would vote a fund, and 
when that was exhausted they would vote more ; and so they 
appropriated sum after sum : one hundred thousand dollars 
to improve the Rock river; one million eight hundred thou- 
sand dollars to build a road from Quincy to Danville; four 
million dollars to complete the Illinois and Michigan Canal ; 
two hundred and fifty thousand for the Western Mail Route 


— in all, some twelve million dollars. To carry out the elaL 
orate scheme, they provided a commission, one of the first 
duties of which was to sell the bonds of the State to raise the 
money for the enterprise. The majority of the assembly 
seem not to have entertained for a moment an idea that there 
would be any difficulty in selling at a premium the bonds of 
Illinois. "On the contrary," says General Linder, in his 
"Reminiscences," "the enthusiastic friends of the measure 
maintained that, instead of there being any difficulty in ob- 
taining a loan of the fifteen or twenty millions authorized to 
be borrowed, our bonds would go like hot cakes, and be 
sought for by the Rothschilds, and Baring Brothers, and 
others of that stamp ; and that the premiums which we would 
obtain upon them would range from fifty to one hundred per 
cent., and that the premium itself would be sufficient to con- 
struct most of the important works, leaving the principal sum 
to go into our treasury, and leave the people free from taxa- 
tion for years to come." 

The scheme was carried without difficulty and the work 
of raising money and of grading road-beds began almost 
simultaneously. All of this seems insane enough to-day, 
knowing as we do that it ended in panic and bankruptcy, in 
deserted road-beds and unpaid bills, but at that time the 
measure seemed to the legislature only the enterprise which 
the prospects of the country demanded. Illinois was not alone 
in confidence and recklessness. Her folly was that of the 
whole country. Never had there been a period of rasher 
speculation and inflation. The entire debt of the country had 
been paid, and a great income was pouring in on the federal 
government. The completion of certain great works like the 
Erie Canal had stimulated trade, and greatly increased the 
value of lands. Every variety of industry was succeeding. 
Capital was pouring in from Europe which seemed dazzled 
at the thought of a nation free from debt with a revenue so 


great that she was forced to distribute it quarterly to her 
States as the United States began to do in January, 1837. An 
exaggerated confidence in regard to the future of the country 
possessed both foreign and domestic capitalist. Credit was 
practically unlimited, "Debt was the road to wealth" and men 
could realize millions on the wildest schemes. Little wonder 
that Lincoln and his associates, ignorant of the history of 
finance and governed as they were by popular opinion, fell 
into the delusion of the day and sought to found a State on 

Although Lincoln favored and aided in every way the 
plan for internal improvements, his real work was in secur- 
ing the removal of the capital to Springfield. The task was 
by no means an easy one to direct, for outside of the "Long 
Nine" there was, of course, nobody particularly interested in 
Springfield, and there were delegations from a dozen other 
counties hot to secure the capital for their own constituencies. 
It took patient and clever manipulation to put the bill 
through. Certain votes Lincoln, no doubt, gained for his 
cause by force of his personal qualities. Thus Jesse K. Du- 
bois says that he and his colleagues voted for the bill because 
they liked Lincoln and wanted to oblige him ; but probably 
the majority he won by skillful log-rolling. The very few 
letters written by him at this time which have been preserved 
show this ; for instance a letter to John Bennett in which he 

" Mr. Edwards tells me you wish to know whether the act 
to which your town incorporation provision was attached 
passed into a law. It did. You can organize under the gen- 
eral incorporation law as soon as you choose. 

"I also tacked a provision on to a fellow's bill, to authorize 
the relocation of the road from Salem down to your town, 
but I am not certain whether or not the bill passed. Neither 
do I suppose I can ascertain before the law will be published 
> — if it is a law." 


There is nothing in his correspondence, however, to show 
that he ever sacrificed his principles in these trades. Every- 
thing we know of his transactions are indeed to the contrary. 
General T. H. Henderson, of Illinois, says in his reminis- 
cences of Lincoln : 

" Before I had ever seen Abraham Lincoln I heard my 
father, who served with him in the legislature of 1838-39 and 
of 1840-41, relate an incident in Mr. Lincoln's life which 
illustrates his character for integrity and his firmness in 
maintaining what he regarded as right in his public acts, in 
a marked manner. 

" I do not remember whether this incident occurred during 
the session of the legislature in 1836-37 or 1838-39. But I 
think it was in that of 1836-37, when it was said that there 
was a great deal of log-rolling going on among the members. 
But, however that may be, according to the story related by 
my father, an effort was made to unite the friends of capital 
removal with the friends of some measure which Mr. Lin- 
coln, for some reason, did not approve. What that measure 
was to which he objected, I am not now able to recall. But 
those who desired the removal of the capital to Springfield 
were very anxious to effect the proposed combination, and a 
meeting was held to see if it could be accomplished. The 
meeting continued in session nearly all night, when it ad- 
journed without accomplishing anything, Mr. Lincoln re- 
fusing to yield his objections and to support the obnoxious 

Another meeting was called, and at this second meeting 
a number of citizens, not members of the legislature, from 
the central and northern parts of the State, among them my 
father, were present by invitation. The meeting was long 
protracted, and earnest in its deliberations. Every argument 
that could be thought of was used to induce Mr. Lincoln to 
yield his objections and unite with his friends, and thus se- 
cure the removal of the capital to his own city; but without 
effect. Finally, after midnight, when everybody seemed ex- 
hausted with the discussion, and when the candles were burn- 
ing low in the room, Mr. Lincoln rose amid the silence and 


solemnity which prevailed, and, my father said, made one of 
the most eloquent and powerful speeches to which he had 
ever listened. He concluded his remarks by saying: 
'You may burn my body to ashes, and scatter them to the 
winds of heaven ; you may drag my soul down to the regions 
of darkness and despair to be tormented forever; but you 
will never get me to support a measure which I believe to be 
wrong, although by doing so I may accomplish that which 
I believe to be right/ And the meeting adjourned." 

As was to be expected, the Democrats charged that the 
Whigs of Sangamon had won their victory by "bargain and 
corruption." These charges became so serious that, in an 
extra session called in the summer of 1837, a few months 
after the bill passed, Lincoln had a bitter fight over them 
with General L. D. Ewing, who wanted to keep the capital at 
Vandalia. "The arrogance of Springfield," said General 
Ewing, "its presumption in claiming the seat of government, 
is not to be endured ; the law has been passed by chicanery 
and trickery ; the Springfield delegation has sold out to the 
internal improvement men, and has promised its support to 
every measure that would gain a vote to the law removing 
the seat of government." 

Lincoln answered in a speech of such severity and keen- 
ness that the House believed he was "digging his own 
grave," for Ewing was a high-spirited man who would not 
hesitate to answer by a challenge. It was, in fact, only the 
interference of their friends which prevented a duel at this 
time between Ewing and Lincoln. This speech, to many of 
Lincoln's colleagues, was a revelation of his ability and char- 
acter. "This was the first time," said General Linder, "that 
I began to conceive a very high opinion of the talents and 
personal courage of Abraham Lincoln." 

A few months later the "Long Nine" were again attacked, 
Lincoln specially being abused. The assailant this time was 


a prominent Democrat, Mr. J. B. Thomas. When he had 
ended, Lincoln replied in a speech which was long known in 
local political circles as the "skinning of Thomas." 

No one doubted after this that Lincoln could defend him- 
self. He became doubly respected as an opponent, for his 
reputation for good-humored raillery had already been estab- 
lished in his campaigns. In a speech made in January he 
gave another evidence of his skill in the use of ridicule. A 
resolution had been offered by Mr. Linder to institute an in- 
quiry into the management of the affairs of the State bank. 
Lincoln's remarks on the resolution form his first reported 
speech. He began his remarks by good-humored but net- 
tling chaffing of his opponent. 

"Mr. Chairman," he said. "Lest I should fall into the too 
common error of being mistaken in regard to which side I de- 
sign to be upon, I shall make it my first care to remove all 
doubt on that point, by declaring that I am opposed to the 
resolution under consideration, in toto. Before I proceed to 
the body of the subject, I will further remark, that it is not 
without a considerable degree of apprehension that I venture 
to cross the track of the gentleman from Coles (Mr. Linder). 
Indeed, I do not believe I could muster a sufficiency of cour- 
age to come in contact with that gentleman, were it not for 
the fact that he, some days since, most graciously conde- 
scended to assure us that he would never be found wasting 
^ammunition on small game. On the same fortunate occa- 
sion he further gave us to understand that he regarded him- 
self as being decidedly the superior of our common friend 
from Randolph (Mr. Shields) ; and feeling, as I really do, 
that I, to say the most of myself, am nothing more than the 
peer of our friend from Randolph, I shall regard the gentle- 
man from Coles as decidedly my superior also; and conse- 
quently, in the course of what I shall have to say, whenever 
I shall have occasion to allude to that gentleman I shall en- 
deavor to adopt that kind of court language which I under- 
stand to be due to decided superiority. In one faculty, at 
least, there can be no dispute of the gentleman's superiority 


over me, and most other men ; and that is, the faculty of en- 
tangling a subject so that neither himself, or any other man, 
can find head or tail to it." 

Taking up the resolution on the bank, he declared its 
meaning : 

"Some gentlemen have their stock in their hands, while 
others, who have more money than they know what to do 
with, want it ; and this, and this alone, is the question, to set- 
tle which we are called on to squander thousands of the peo- 
ple's money. What interest, let me ask, have the people in 
the settlement of this question? What difference is it to 
them whether the stock is owned by Judge Smith or Sam 
Wiggins ? If any gentleman be entitled to stock in the bank, 
which he is kept out of possession of by others, let him as- 
sert his right in the Supreme Court, and let him or his an- 
tagonist, whichever may be found in the wrong, pay the 
costs of suit. It is an old maxim, and a very sound one, that 
he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in 
the present case, if any gentlemen whose money is a burden 
to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed 
to the people's money being used to pay the fiddler. No one 
can doubt that the examination proposed by this resolution 
must cost the State some ten or twelve thousand dollars ; and 
all this to settle a question in which the people have no in- 
terest, and about which they care nothing. These capitalists 
generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the peo- 
ple; and now that they have got into a quarrel with them- 
selves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money 
to settle the quarrel." 

The resolution had declared that the bank practised 
various methods which were "to the great injury of the peo- 
ple." Lincoln took the occasion to announce his ideas of the 
people and the politicians. 

"If the bank really be a grievance, why is it that no one of 
the real people is found to ask redress of it ? The truth is, no 
such oppression exists. If it did, our people would groan 
with memorials and petitions, and we would not be permitted 


to rest day or night till we had put it down. The people 
know their rights, and they are never slow to assert and 
maintain them when they are invaded. Let them call for an 
investigation, and I shall ever stand ready to respond to the 
call. But they have made no such call. I make the assertion 
boldly, and without fear of contradiction, that no man who 
does not hold an office, or does not aspire to one, has ever 
found any fault of the bank. It has doubled the prices of the 
products of their farms, and filled their pockets with a sound 
circulating medium; and they are all well pleased with its 
operations. No, sir, it is the politician who is the first to 
sound the alarm (which, by the way, is a false one). It is 
he who, by these unholy means, is endeavoring to blow up a 
storm that he may ride upon and direct. It is he, and he 
alone, that here proposes to spend thousands of the peopled 
public treasure, for no other advantage to them than to make 
valueless in their pockets the reward of their industry. Mr. 
Chairman, this work is exclusively the work of politicians — 
a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of 
the people, and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a 
mass, at least one step removed from honest men. I say this 
with the greater freedom, because, being a politician myself, 
none can regard it as personal." 

The speech was published in full in the "Sangamon Jour- 
nal" for Jan. 28, 1837, and the editor commented : 

" Mr. Lincoln's remarks on Mr. Linder's bank resolution 
in the paper are quite to the point. Our friend carries the 
true Kentucky rifle, and when he fires he seldom fails of 
sending the shot home." 

One other act of his in this session cannot be ignored. It 
is a sinister note in the hopeful chorus of the Tenth Assem- 
bly. For months there had come from the southern States 
violent protests against the growth of abolition agitation in 
the North. Garrison's paper, the " infernal Liberator," as it 
was called in the pro-slavery part of the country, had been 
gradually extending its circulation and its influence; and it 
already had imitators even on the banks of the Mississippi. 


The American Anti-slavery Society was now over three 
years old. A deep, unconquerable conviction of the iniquity 
of slavery was spreading through the North. The South felt 
it and protested, and the statesmen of the North joined them 
in their protest. Slavery could not be crushed, said the con- 
servatives. It was sanctioned by the Constitution. The 
South must be supported in its claims, and agitation stopped, 
But the agitation went on, and riots, violence, and hatred 
pursued the agitators. In Illinois, in this very year, 1837, we 
have a printing-office raided and an anti-slavery editor, 
Elijah Lovejoy, killed by the citizens of Alton, who were de- 
termined that it should not be said among them that slavery 
was an iniquity. 

To silence the storm, mass-meetings of citizens, the United 
States Congress, the State legislatures, took up the question 
and again and again voted resolutions assuring the South 
that the Abolitionists were not supported ; that the country 
recognized their right to their " peculiar institution," and 
that in no case should they be interfered with. At Spring- 
field, this same year ( 1837) the citizens convened and passed 
a resolution declaring that "the efforts of Abolitionists in this 
community are neither necessary nor useful." When the riot 
occured in Alton, the Springfield papers uttered no word 
of condemnation, giving the affair only a laconic mention. 

The Illinois Assembly joined in the general disapproval, 
and on March 3d passed the following resolutions : 

" Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of 
Illinois : 

" That we highly disapprove of the formation of Abolitior 
societies, and of the doctrines promulgated by them. 

" That the right of property in slaves is sacred to the 
slave-holding States by the Federal Constitution, and tha\ 
they cannot be deprived of that right without their consent, 

" That the General Government cannot abolish slavery in 


the District of Columbia against the consent of the citizens ol 
said District, without a manifest breach of good faith. 

" That the governor be requested to transmit to the States 
of Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York and Connecti- 
cut a copy of the foregoing report and resolutions " 

Lincoln refused to vote for these resolutions. In his judg- 
ment no expression on the slavery question should go unac- 
companied by the statement that it was an evil, and he had 
the boldness to protest immediately against the action of the 
House. He found only one man in the assembly willing to 
join him in his protest. These two names are joined to the 
document they presented : 

" Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having 
passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present 
session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage 
of the same. 

" They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on 
both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of 
abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its 

" They believe that the Congress of the United States has 
no power under the Constitution to interfere with the institu- 
tion of slavery in the different States. 

" They believe that the Congress of the United States has 
the power under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the 
District of Columbia, but that the power ought not to be ex- 
ercised, unless at the request of the people of the District. 

" The difference between these opinions and those con- 
tained in the resolutions is their reason for entering this pro- 
test. " Dan Stone, 

" A. Lincoln, 
" Representatives from the County of Sangamon." 

The Tenth Assembly gave Lincoln an opportunity to show 
his ability as a political manceuvrer, his power as a speaker, 
and his courage in opposing what seemed to him wrong. 


There had never been a session of the assembly when the 
members had the chance to make so wide an impression. The 
character of the legislation on foot had called to Vandalia 
numbers of persons of influence from almost every part of 
the State. They were invariably there to secure something 
for their town or county, and naturally made a point of learn^ 
ing all they could of the members and of getting as well ac- 
quainted with them as circumstances allowed. Game suppers 
seem to have been the means usually employed by visitors for 
bringing people together, and Lincoln became a favorite 
guest not only because he was necessary to the success of al- 
most any measure, but because he was so jovial a companion. 
It was then that he laid the foundation of his extensive ac- 
quaintance throughout the State which in after years stood 
him in excellent stead. 

The lobbyists were not the only ones in Vandalia who 
gave suppers, however. Not a bill was passed nor an election 
decided that a banquet did not follow. Mr. John Bryant, the 
brother of William Cullen, was in Vandalia that winter in 
the interest of his county, and he attended one of these ban- 
quets, given by the successful candidate for the United States 
Senate. Lincoln was present, of course, and so were all the 
prominent politicians of the State. 

"After the company had gotten pretty noisy and mellow 
from their imbibitions of Yellow Seal and 'corn juice,' " says 
Mr. Bryant, "Mr. Douglas and General Shields, to the con- 
sternation of the host and intense merriment of the guests, 
climbed up on the table, at one end, encircled each other's 
waists, and to the tune of a rollicking song, pirouetted down 
the whole length of the table, shouting, singing, and kick- 
ing dishes, glasses, and everything right and left, helter skel- 
ter. For this night of entertainment to his constituents, the 
successful candidate was presented with a bill, in the morn- 
ing, for supper, wines, liquors, and damages, which 
amounted to six hundred dollars." 


But boisterous suppers were not by any means the only 
feature of Lincoln's social life that winter in Vandalia. There 
was another and quieter side in which he showed his rare 
companionableness and endeared himself to many people. In 
the midst of the log-rolling and jubilations of the session he 
would often slip away to some acquaintance's room and 
spend hours in talk and stories. Mr. John Bryant tells of his 
coming frequently to his room at the hotel, and sitting "with 
his knees up to his chin, telling his inimitable stories and his 
triumphs in the House in circumventing the Democrats." 

Major Newton Walker, of Lewiston, who was in Vandalia 
at the time, says : "I used to play the fiddle a great deal and 
have played for Lincoln a number of times. He used to come 
over to where I was boarding and ask me to play, and I 
would take the fiddle with me when I went over to visit him, 
and when he grew weary of telling stories he would ask me 
to give him a tune, which I never refused to do." 



As soon as the assembly closed, Lincoln returned to New 
Salem ; but not to stay. He had determined to go to Spring- 
field. Major John Stuart, the friend who had advised him 
to study law and who had lent him books and with whom he 
had been associated closely in politics, had offered to take 
him as a partner. It was a good opening, for Stuart was one 
of the leading lawyers and politicians of the State, and his in- 
fluence would place Lincoln at once in command of more or 
less business. From every point of view the change seems to 
have been wise ; yet Lincoln made it with foreboding. 

To practise law he must abandon his business as surveyor, 
which was bringing him a fair income; he must for a time, 
at least, go without a certain income. If he failed, what 
then ? The uncertainty weighed on him heavily, the more so 
because he was burdened by the debts left from his store and 
because he was constantly called upon to aid his father's fam- 
ily. Thomas Lincoln had remained in Coles County, but he 
had not, in these six years in which his son had risen so rap- 
idly, been able to get anything more than a poor livelihood 
from his farm. The sense of responsibility Lincoln had 
towards his father's family made it the more difficult for him 
to undertake a new profession. His decision was made, how- 
ever, and as soon as the session of the Tenth Assembly was 
over he started for Springfield. His first appearance there is 
as pathetic as amusing. 

"He had ridden into town," says Joshua Speed, "on a 
borrowed horse, with no earthly property save a pair of sad- 



die-bags containing* a few clothes. I was a merchant at 
Springfield, and kept a large country store, embracing dry- 
goods, groceries, hardware, books, medicines, bed-clothes, 
mattresses — in fact, everything that the country needed. Lin- 
coln came into the store with his saddle-bags on his arm. He 
said he wanted to buy the furniture for a single bed. The 
mattress, blankets, sheets, coverlid, and pillow, according to 
the figures made by me, would cost seventeen dollars. He 
said that perhaps was cheap enough ; but small as the price 
was, he was unable to pay it. But if I would credit him till 
Christmas, and his experiment as a lawyer was a success, he 
would pay then; saying in the saddest tone, Tf I fail in this 
I do not know that I can ever pay you.' As I looked up at 
him I thought then, and I think now, that I never saw a sad- 
der face. 

"I said to him : 'You seem to be so much pained at con- 
tracting so small a debt, I think I can suggest a plan by which 
you can avoid the debt, and at the same time attain your end. 
I have a large room with a double bed upstairs, which you are 
very welcome to share with me/ 

" 'Where is your room ?' said he. 

" 'Upstairs/ said I, pointing to a pair of winding stairs 
which led from the store to my room. 

"He took his saddle-bags on his arm, went upstairs, set 
them on the floor, and came down with the most changed ex- 
pression of countenance. Beaming with pleasure, he ex- 
claimed : 

" 'Well, Speed, I am moved/ " 

Another friend, William Butler, with whom Lincoln had 
become intimate at Vandalia, took him to board; life at 
Springfield thus began under as favorable auspices as he 
could hope for. 

After Chicago, Springfield was at that day the most prom- 
ising city in Illinois. It had some fifteen hundred inhabitants, 
and the removal of the capital was certain to bring many 
more. Already, in fact, the town felt the effect. "The owner 
of real estate sees his property rapidly enhancing in value," 
declared the "Sangamon Journal ;" "the merchant anticipates 


a large accession to our population and a corresponding addi- 
tional sale for his goods ; the mechanic already has more con- 
tracts offered him for building and improvements than he 
can execute ; the farmer anticipates the growth of a large and 
important town, a market for the varied products of his 
farm ; — indeed, every class of our citizens look to the future 
with confidence, that, we trust, will not be disappointed." 

The effect was apparent too, in society. "We used to eat 
all together," said an old man who in the early thirties came 
to Springfield as a hostler; "but about this time some one 
came along and told the people they oughtn't to do so, and 
then the hired folks ate in the kitchen." This differentiation 
was apparent to Lincoln and a little discouraging. He was 
thinking at the time of this removal of marrying, but he soon 
saw that it was quite out of the question for him to support a 
wife in Springfield. 

"I am afraid you would not be satisfied,'' he wrote the 
young woman, " there is a great deal of flourishing about in 
carriages here, which it would be your doom to see without 
sharing it. You would have to be poor, without the means of 
hiding your poverty. Do you believe you could bear that pa- 

Lincoln's idea of marrying Mary Owens, of whom he 
asked this question, was the result of a Quixotic sense of 
honor which had curiously blinded him to the girl's real feel- 
ing for him. The affair had begun in the fall of 1836, when 
a woman of his acquaintance who was going to Kentucky 
on a visit, proposed laughingly to bring back a sister of hers 
on condition that Lincoln marry her. 

" I of course accepted the proposal," Lincoln wrote 
afterwards in a letter to Mrs. O. H. Browning, "for yot* 
know I could not have done otherwise had I really been 
averse to it; but privatelv, between you and me, I was 


most confoundedly well pleased with the project. I had 
seen the said sister some three years before, thought 
her intelligent and agreeable, and saw no good objec- 
tion to plodding life through hand in hand with her. Time 
passed on, the lady took her journey and in due time re- 
turned, sister in company, sure enough. This astonished me 
a little, for it appeared to me that her coming so readily 
showed that she was a trifle too willing, but on reflection it 
occurred to me that she might have been prevailed on by her 
married sister to come, without anything concerning me ever 
having been mentioned to her, and so I concluded that if no 
other objection presented itself, I would consent to waive 

Another objection did present itself as soon as he saw the 
lady. He was anything but pleased with her appearance. 

"But what could I do ?" he continues in his letter to Mrs. 
Browning. "I had told her sister that I would take her for 
better or for worse, and I made a point of honor and con- 
science in all things to stick to my word, especially if others 
had been induced to act on it, which in this case I had no 
doubt they had, for I was now fairly convinced that no other 
man on earth would have her, and hence the conclusion that 
they were bent on holding me to my bargain. 'Well, thought 
I, I have said it, and, be the consequences what they may, it 
shall not be my fault if I fail to do it/ At once I determined 
to consider her my wife, and this done, all my powers of dis- 
covery were put to work in search of perfections in her which 
might be fairly set off against her defects. I tried to imagine 
her handsome, which, but for her unfortunate corpulency, 
was actually true. Exclusive of this, no woman that I have 
ever seen has a finer face. I also tried to convince myself that 
the mind was much more to be valued than the person, and 
in this she was not inferior, as I could discover, to any with 
whom I had been acquainted. 

"Shortly after this, without attempting to come to any 
positive understanding with her, I set out for Vandalia, when 
and where you first saw me. During my stay there I had let- 


ters from her which did not change my opinion of either her 
intellect or intention, but, on the contrary, confirmed it in 

"All this while, although I was fixed 'firm as the surge-re- 
pelling rock' in my resolution, I found I was continually re- 
penting the rashness which had led me to make it. Through 
life I have been in no bondage, either real or imaginary, from 
the thraldom of which I so much desired to be free. After 
my return home I saw nothing to change my opinion of her 
in any particular. She was the same, and so was I. I now 
spent my time in planning how I might get along in life after 
vny contemplated change of circumstances should have taken 
place, and how I might procrastinate the evil day for a time, 
which I really dreaded as much, perhaps more, than an 
Irishman does the halter." 

Lincoln was in this state of mind when he went to Spring- 
field and discovered how unfit his resources were to support 
a wife there. Although he put the question of poverty so 
plainly he assured Miss Owens that if she married him he 
would do all in his power to make her happy. 

"Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine," he wrote 
her, "should any ever do so, it is my intention to do all in my 
power to make her happy and contented ; and there is noth- 
ing I can imagine that would make me more unhappy than to 
fail in the effort. I know I should be much happier with you 
than the way I am, provided I saw no signs of discontent in 
you. What you have said to me may have been in the way 
of jest, or I may have misunderstood it. If so, then let it be 
forgotten ; if otherwise, I much wish you would think seri- 
ously before you decide. What I have said I will most posi- 
tively abide by, provided you wish it. My opinion is that 
you had better not do it. You have not been accustomed to 
hardship, and it may be more serious than you now imagine. 
I know you are capable of thinking correctly on any subject, 
and if you deliberate maturely upon this before you decide, 
then I am willing to abide your decision." 


This decidedly dispassionate view of their relation seems 
not to have brought any decision from Miss Owens; for 
three months later Mr. Lincoln wrote her an equally judicial 
letter, telling her that he could not think of her " with en- 
tire indifference," that he in all cases wanted to do right and 
"most particularly so in all cases with women," and summing 
up his position as follows : 

"I now say that you can now drop the subject, dismiss 
your thoughts (if you ever had any) from me forever, and 
leave this letter unanswered, without calling forth one ac- 
cusing murmur from me. And I will even go further, and 
say that if it will add anything to your comfort or peace of 
mind to do so, it is my sincere wish that you should. Do not 
understand by this that I wish to cut your acquaintance. I 
mean no such thing. 

"What I do wish is that our further acquaintance shall de j 
pend upon yourself. If such further acquaintance would 
contribute nothing to your happiness, I am sure it would not 
to mine. If you feel yourself in any degree bound to me, I am 
now willing to release you, provided you wish it ; while, on 
the other hand, I am willing and even anxious to bind you 
faster, if I can be convinced that it will, in any considerable 
degree, add to your happiness. This, indeed, is the whole 
question with me. Nothing would make me more miserable 
than to believe you miserable — nothing more happy than to 
know you were so." 

Miss Owens had enough discernment to recognize the dis- 
interestedness of this love-making, and she refused Mr. Lin- 
coln's offer. She found him "deficient in those little links 
which make up the chain of a woman's happiness," she said. 
When finally refused Lincoln wrote the letter to Mrs. Brown- 
ing from which the above citations have been taken. He con- 
cluded it with an account of the effect on himself of Miss 
Owens' refusal: 

" I was mortified, it seemed to me, in a hundred different 
ways. My vanity was deeply wounded by the reflection that 


I had so long been too stupid to discover her intentions, and 
at the same time never doubting that I understood them per- 
fectly; and also that she, whom I had taught myself to be- 
lieve nobody else would have, had actually rejected me with 
all my fancied greatness. And, to cap the whole, I then for 
the first time began to suspect that I was really a little in love 
with her. But let it all go ! I'll try and outlive it. Others 
have been made fools of by the girls, but this can never with 
truth be said of me. I most emphatically, in this instance, 
made a fool of myself. I have now come to the conclusion 
never again to think of marrying, and for this reason — I can 
never be satisfied with any one who would be blockhead 
enough to have me." 

The skill, the courage, and the good-will Lincoln had 
shown in his management of the bill for the removal of the 
capital gave him at once a position in Springfield. The entire 
"Long Nine," indeed, were regarded by the county as its 
benefactors, and throughout the summer there were barbe- 
cues and fireworks, dinners and speeches in their honor. "The 
service rendered Old Sangamon by the present delegation" 
was a continually recurring toast at every gathering. At one 
"sumptuous dinner" the internal improvement scheme in all 
its phases was toasted again and again by the banqueters. 
" The Long Nine' of Old Sangamon — well done, good and 
faithful servants," drew forth long applause. Among those 
who offered volunteer toasts at this dinner were "A. Lincoln, 
Esq.," and "S. A. Douglas, Esq." 

At a dinner at Athens, given to the delegation, eight for- 
mal toasts and twenty-five volunteers are quoted in the re- 
port of the affair in the "Sangamon Journal." Among them 
were the following : 

A. Lincoln. He has fulfilled the expectations of his 
triends and disappointed the hopes of his enemies. 
A. Lincoln. One of nature's noblemen. 
By A. Lincoln. Sangamon County will ever be true to her 


best interests, and never more so than in reciprocating the 
good feelings of the citizens of Athens and neighborhood. 

Lincoln had not been long in Springfield before he was 
able to support himself from his law practice, a result due, no 
doubt, very largely to his personal qualities and to his repu- 
tation as a shrewd politician. Not that he made money. The 
fee-book of Lincoln and Stuart shows that the returns were 
modest enough, and that sometimes they even "traded out" 
their account. Nevertheless it was a satisfaction to earn a 
livelihood so soon. Of his peculiar methods as a lawyer at 
this date we know very little. Most of his cases are utterly 
uninteresting. The very first year he was in Springfield, 
however, he had one case which created a sensation, and 
which is an admirable example of the way he could combine 
business and politics as well as of his merciless persistency in 
pursuing a man whom he believed unjust. 

It seems that among the offices to be filled at the August 
election of 1837 was that of probate justice of the peace. One 
of the candidates was General James Adams, a man who had 
come on from the East in the early twenties, and who had at 
first claimed to be a lawyer. He had been an aspirant for 
various offices, among them that of governor of the State, 
but with little success. A few days before the August elec- 
tion of 1837 an anonymous hand-bill was scattered about the 
streets. It was an attack on General Adams, charging him 
with having acquired the title to a ten-acre lot of ground near 
the town by the deliberate forgery of the name of Joseph An- 
derson, of Fulton County, Illinois, to an assignment of a 
judgment. Anderson had died, and his widow, going to 
Springfield to dispose of the land, had been surprised to find 
that it was claimed by General Adams. She had employed 
Stuart and Lincoln to look into the matter. The hand-bill, 
which went into all of the details at great length, concluded 
as follows: "I have only made these statements because I 


am known by many to be one of the individuals against 
whom the charge of forging the assignment and slipping it 
into the general's papers has been made; and because our si- 
lence might be construed into a confession of the truth. I 
shall not subscribe my name ; but hereby authorize the editor 
of the 'Journal' to give it up to any one who may call for it." 

After the election, at which General Adams was successful, 
the hand-bill was reproduced in the "Sangamon Journal," 
with a card signed by the editor, in which he said : "To save 
any further remarks on this subject, I now state that A. Lin- 
coln, Esq., is the author of the hand-bill in question." The 
same issue of the paper contained a lengthy communication 
from General Adams, denying the charge of fraud. 

The controversy was continued for several weeks in the 
newspapers, General Adams often filling six columns of a 
single issue of the "Springfield Republican." 

He charged that the assault upon him was the result of a 
conspiracy between "a knot of lawyers, doctors, and others," 
who wished to ruin his reputation. Lincoln's answers to 
Adams are most emphatic. In one case, quoting several of 
his assertions, he pronounced them "all as false as hell, as 
all this community must know." Adams's replies were al- 
ways voluminous. "Such is the turn which things have lately 
taken," wrote Lincoln, "that when General Adams writes a 
book I am expected to write a commentary on it." Replying 
to Adams's denunciation of the lawyers, he said: "He at- 
tempted to impose himself upon the community as a lawyer, 
and he actually carried the attempt so far as to induce a man 
who was under the charge of murder to entrust the defence 
of his life to his hands, and finally took his money and got 
him hanged. Is this the man that is to raise a breeze in his 
favor by abusing lawyers ? . . . If he is not a lawyer, 
he is a liar; for he proclaimed himself a lawyer, and got a 
man hanged by depending on him." Lincoln concluded: 


"Farewell, General. I will see you again at court, if not be- 
fore — when and where we will settle the question whether 
you or the widow shall have the land." The widow did get 
the land, but this was not the worst thing that happened to 
Adams. The climax was reached when the " Sangamon Jour- 
nal" published a long editorial (written by Lincoln, no 
doubt) on the controversy, and followed it with a copy of an 
indictment found against Adams in Oswego County, New 
York, in 1818. The offence charged in this indictment was 
the forgery of a deed by Adams — "a person of evil name and 
fame and of a wicked disposition." 

Lincoln's victory in this controversy undoubtedly did 
much to impress the community, not necessarily that he was 
a good lawyer, but rather that he was a clever strategist and 
a fearless enemy. It was not, in fact, as a lawyer that he was 
prominent in the first years after he came to Springfield. It 
was as a politician. The place he had taken among the lead- 
ers of the Whig party in the winter of 1836 and 1837 he 
easily kept. The qualities which he had shown from the out- 
start of his public life were only strengthened as he gained 
experience and self-confidence. He was the terror of the pre- 
tentious and insincere, and had a way of exposing their 
shams by clever tricks which were unanswerable arguments. 
Thus, it was considered necessary, at that day, by a candi- 
date to prove to the farmers that he was poor and, like them- 
selves, horny-handed. Those politicians who wore good 
clothes and dined sumptuously were careful to conceal their 
regard for the elegancies of life from their constituents. 
One of the Democrats who in this period took particu- 
lar pains to decry the Whigs for their wealth and 
aristocratic principles was Colonel Dick Taylor, gen- 
erally known in Illinois as "rufrled-shirt Taylor." He 
was a vain and handsome man, who habitually ar- 
rayed himself as gorgeously as the fashion allowed 


One day when he and Lincoln had met in debate at a coun- 
tryside gathering, Colonel Dick became particularly bitter 
in his condemnation of Whig elegance. Lincoln listened for 
a time, and then, slipping near the speaker, suddenly caught 
his coat, which was buttoned up close, and tore it open. A 
mass of ruffled shirt, a gorgeous velvet vest, and a great gold 
chain from which dangled numerous rings and seals, were 
uncovered to the crowd. Lincoln needed to make no further 
reply tnat day to the charge of being a "rag baron." 

Lincoln loved fair play as he hated shams ; and through- 
out these early years in Springfield boldly insisted that 
friend and enemy have the chance due them. A dram- 
atic case of this kind occurred at a political meeting 
held one evening in the Springfield court-room, which at 
that date was temporarily in a hall under Stuart and Lin- 
coln's law office. Directly over the platform was a trap-door. 
Lincoln frequently would lie by this opening during a meet- 
ing, listening to the speeches. One evening one of his 
friends, E. D. Baker, in speaking angered the crowd, and an 
attempt was made to "pull him down." Before the assailants 
could reach the platform, however, a pair of long legs 
dangled from the trap-door, and in an instant Lincoln 
dropped down beside Baker, crying out, "Hold on, gentle- 
men, this is a land of free speech." His appearance was so 
unexpected, and his attitude so determined, that the crowd 
soon was quiet, and Baker went on with his speech. 
• Lincoln did not take a prominent place in his party 
because the Whigs lacked material. He had powerful 
rivals. Edward Dickinson Baker, Colonel John J. Har- 
din, John T. Stuart, Ninian W. Edwards, Jesse K. 
Dubois, O. H. Browning, were but a few of the brilliant 
men who were throwing all their ability and ambition into 
the contest for political honors in the State. Nor were the 
Whigs a whit superior to the Democrats. William L. D. Ew- 


ing, Ebenezer Peck, William Thomas, James Shields, John 
Calhoun, were in every respect as able as the best men of the 
Whig party. Indeed, one of the prominent Democrats with 
whom Lincoln came often in contact, was popularly regarded 
as the most brilliant and promising politician of the State — 
Stephen A. Douglas. His record had been phenomenal. He 
had amazed both parties, in 1834, by securing the appoint- 
ment by the legislature to the office of State Attorney for the 
first judicial circuit, over John J. Hardin. In 1836 he had 
been elected to the legislature, and although he was at that 
time but twenty-three years of age, he had shown himself one 
of the most vigorous, capable, and intelligent members. In- 
deed, Douglas's work in the Tenth Assembly gave him about 
the same position in the Democratic party of the State at 
large that Lincoln's work in the same body gave him in the 
Whig party of his own district. In 1837 he had had no diffi- 
culty in being appointed register of the land office, a position 
which compelled him to make his home in Springfield. It 
was only a few months after Lincoln rode into town, all his 
earthly possessions in a pair of saddle-bags, that Douglas ap- 
peared. Handsome, polished, and always with an air of pros- 
perity, the advent of the young Democratic official was in 
striking contrast to that of the sad-eyed, ill-clad, poverty- 
stricken young lawyer from New Salem. 

From the first, Lincoln and Douglas were thrown con- 
stantly together in the social life of the town, and often 
pitted against each other in what were the real forums of the 
State at that day — the space around the huge "Franklin" 
stove of some obliging store-keeper, the steps of somebody's 
law office, a pile of lumber, or a long timber, lying in the pub- 
lic square, where the new State-house was going up. 

In the fall of 1837 Douglas was nominated for Congress 
on the Democratic ticket. His Whig opponent was Lincoln's 
law partner, John T. Stuart. The campaign which the two 


conducted was one of the most remarkable in the history of 
the State. For five months of the spring and summer of 1838 
they rode together from town to town all over the northern 
part of Illinois (Illinois at that time was divided into but 
three congressional districts ; the third, in which Sangamon 
county was included, being made up of the twenty-two north- 
ernmost counties) , speaking six days out of seven. When the 
election came off in August, 1838, out of thirty-six thousand 
votes cast, Stuart received a majority of only fourteen ; but 
even that majority the Democrats always contended was won 

The campaign was watched with intense interest by the 
young politicians of Springfield; no one of them felt a 
deeper interest in it than Lincoln, who was himself a candi- 
date for the State legislature, and who was spending a great 
deal of his time in electioneering. 

As the campaign of 1840 approached Lincoln was more 
and more frequently pitted against Douglas. He had by this 
time no doubt learned something of the power of the ' 'Little 
Giant," as Douglas was already called. Certainly no man in 
public life between 1837 and i860 had a greater hold on his 
followers. The reasons for this grasp are not hard to find. 
Douglas was by nature buoyant, enthusiastic, impetuous. He 
had that sunny boyishness which is so irresistible to young 
and old. With it he had great natural eloquence. When his 
deep, rich voice rolled out fervid periods in support of the 
sub-treasury and the convention system, or in opposition to 
internal improvements by the federal government, the people 
applauded out of sheer joy at the pleasure of hearing him. 
He was one of the few men in Illinois whom the epithet of 
"Yankee" never hurt. He might be a Yankee, but when he 
sat down on the knee of some surly lawyer, and confidentially 
told him his plans ; or, at a political meeting, took off his coat, 


and rolled up his sleeves, and "pitched into" his opponent, 
the sons of Illinois forgot his origin in love for the man. 

Lincoln undoubtedly understood the charm of Douglas, 
and realized his power. But he already had an insight into 
one of his political characteristics that few people recognized 
at that day. In writing to Stuart in 1839, while the latter 
was attending Congress, Lincoln said: "Douglas has not 
been here since you left. A report is in circulation here now 
thai he has abandoned the idea of going to Washington, 
though the report does not come in a very authentic form, so 
far as I can learn. Though, by the way, speaking of authen- 
ticity, you know that if we had heard Douglas say that he 
had abandoned the contest, it would not be very authentic." 

At that time the local issues, which had formerly engaged 
Illinois candidates almost entirely, were lost sight of in na- 
tional questions. In Springfield, where the leaders of both 
parties were living, many hot debates were held in 
private. Out of these grew, in December, 1839, a series of 
public discussions, extending over eight evenings, and in 
which several of the first orators of the State took part. 
Lincoln was the last man on the list. The people were nearly 
worn out before his turn came, and his audience was small. 
He began his speech with some melancholy, self-deprecatory 
reflections, complaining that the small audience cast a damp 
upon his spirits which he was sure he would be unable to 
overcome during the evening. He did better than he ex- 
pected, overcoming the damp on his spirits so effectually that 
he made what was regarded as the best speech of the series. 
By a general request, it was printed for distribution. The 
speech is peculiarly interesting from the fact that while there 
is a little of the perfervid eloquence of 1840 in it, as well as 
a good deal of the rather boisterous humor of the time, a part 
of '.1 is devoted to a careful examination of the statements of 



his opponents, and a refutation of them by means of public 

As a good Democrat was expected to do, Douglas had ex- 
plained with plausibility why the Van Buren administration 
had in 1838 spent $40,000,000. Lincoln takes up his state- 
ments one by one, and proves, as he says, that "the majority 
of them are wholly untrue." Douglas had attributed a part 
of the expenditures to the purchase of public lands from the 

"Now it happens," said Lincoln, "that no such purchase 
was made during that year. It is true that some money 
was paid that year in pursuance of Indian treaties; but no 
more, or rather not as much as had been paid on the same 

account in each of several preceding years Again, 

Mr. Douglas says that the removal of the Indians to the 
country west of the Mississippi created much of the expendi- 
ture of 1838. I have examined the public documents in rela- 
tion to this matter, and find that less was paid for the re- 
moval of Indians in that than in some former years. The 
whole sum expended on that account in that year did not 
much exceed one quarter of a million. For this small sum, 
although we do not think the administration entitled to 
credit, because large sums have been expended in the same 
way in former years, we consent it may take one and make 
the most of it. 

"Next, Mr. Douglas says that five millions of the expendi- 
tures of 1838 consisted of the payment of the French in- 
demnity money to its individual claimants. I have carefully 
examined the public documents, and thereby find this state- 
ment to be wholly untrue. Of the forty millions of dollars 
expended in 1838, I am enabled to say positively that not one 
dollar consisted of payments on the French indemnities. So 
much for that excuse. 

"Next comes the Post-office. He says that five millions 
were expended during that year to sustain that department. 
By a like examination of public documents, I find this also 
wholly untrue. Of the so often mentioned forty millions, not 
one dollar went to the Post-office. . . . 


"I return to another of Mr. Douglas's excuses for the ex- 
penditures of 1838, at the same time announcing the pleas- 
ing intelligence that this is the last one. He says that ten mil- 
lions of that year's expenditure was a contingent appropria- 
tion, to prosecute an anticipated war with Great Britain on 
the Maine boundary question. Few words will settle this. 
First, that the ten millions appropriated was not made till 
1839, and consequently could not have been expended in 
1838; second, although it was appropriated, it has never been 
expended at all. Those who heard Mr. Douglas recollect 
that he indulged himself in a contemptuous expression of 
pity for me. 'Now he's got me/ thought I. But when he 
went on to say that five millions of the expenditure of 1838 
were payments of the French indemnities, which I knew to 
be untrue; that five millions had been for the Post-office, 
which I knew to be untrue ; that ten millions had been for the 
Maine boundary war, which I not only knew to be untrue, 
but supremely ridiculous also ; and when I saw that he was 
stupid enough to hope that I would permit such groundless 
and audacious assertions to go unexposed, — I readily con- 
sented that, on the score both of veracity and sagacity, the 
audience should judge whether he or I were the more de- 
serving of the world's contempt." 

These citations show that Lincoln had already learned to 
handle public documents, and to depend for at least a part of 
his success with an audience upon a careful statement of 
facts. The methods used in at least a portion of this speech 
are exactly those which made the irresistible strength of his 
speeches in 1858, 1859, and i860. 

But there was little of as good work done in the campaign 
of 1840, by Lincoln or anybody else, as is found in this 
speech. It was a campaign of fun and noise, and nowhere 
more so than in Illinois. Lincoln was one of the five Whig 
Presidential electors, and he flung himself into the campaign 
with confidence. "The nomination of Harrison takes first 
rate," he wrote to his partner Stuart, then in Washington. 
"You know I am never sanguine, but I believe we will carry 


the State. The chance of doing so appears to me twenty-five 
per cent, better than it did for you to beat Douglas." The 
Whigs, in spite of their dislike of the convention system, or- 
ganized as they never had before, and even sent out a "confi- 
dential" circular of which Lincoln was the author. 

This circular provided for a remarkably complete organi- 
zation of the State, as the following extracts will show : 

After due deliberation, the following is the plan of or- 
ganization, and the duties required of each county commit- 

( 1 ) To divide their county into small districts, and to ap- 
point in each a subcommittee, whose duty it shall be to make 
a perfect list of all the voters in their respective districts, and 
to ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote. If they 
meet with men who are doubtful as to the man they will sup- 
port, such voters should be designated in separate lines, with 
the name of the man they will probably support. 

(2) It will be the duty of said subcommittee to keep a 
constant watch on the doubtful voters, and from time to time 
have them talked to by those in whom they have the most 
confidence, and also to place in their hands such documents 
as will enlighten and influence them. 

(5) On the first of each month hereafter we shall expect 
to hear from you. After the first report of your subcommit- 
tees, unless there should be found a great many doubtful 
voters, you can tell pretty accurately the manner in which 
your county will vote. In each of your letters to us, you will 
state the number of certain votes both for and against us, as 
well as the number of doubtful votes, with your opinion of 
the manner in which they will be cast. 

(6) When we have heard from all the counties, we shall 
be able to tell with similar accuracy the political complexion 
of the State. This information will be forwarded to you as 
soon as received. 

Every weapon Lincoln thought of possible use in the con- 
test he secured. "Be sure to send me as many copies of the 


'Life of Harrison' as you can spare from other uses," he 
wrote Stuart. "Be very sure to procure and send me the 
'Senate Journal' of New York, of September, 1814. I have a 
newspaper article which says that that document proves that 
Van Buren voted against raising troops in the last war. 
And, in general, send me everything you think will be a good 
'war-club.' " 

Every sign of success he quoted to Stuart ; the number of 
subscribers to the "Old Soldier," a campaign newspaper 
which the Whig committee had informed the Whigs of the 
State that they "must take/' the names of Van Buren men 
who were weakening, and to whom he wanted Stuart to send 
documents; the name of every theretofore doubtful person 
who had declared himself for Harrison. "Japh Bell has come 
out for Harrison," he put in a postscript to one letter; "ain't 
that a caution ?" 

The monster political meetings held throughout the State 
did much to widen Lincoln's reputation, particularly one held 
in June in Springfield. Twenty thousand people attended this 
meeting, delegations coming from every direction. It took 
fourteen teams to haul the delegation from Chicago, and they 
were three weeks on their journey. Each party carried some 
huge symbolic piece — the log cabin being the favorite. One 
of the cabins taken to Springfield was drawn by thirty yokes 
of oxen. In a hickory tree which was planted beside this 
cabin, coons were seen playing, and a barrel of hard cider 
stood by the door, continually on tap. Instead of a log cabin, 
the Chicago delegation dragged across country a govern- 
ment yawl rigged up as a two-masted ship, with a band of 
music and a six-pounder cannon on board. 

There are many reminiscences of this great celebration, 
and Lincoln's part in it, still afloat in Illinois. General T. J. 
Henderson writes, in his entertaining reminiscences of Lin- 


"The first time I remember to have seen Abraham Lincoln 
was during the memorable campaign of 1840, when I was a 
boy fifteen years of age. It was at an immense Whig mass- 
meeting held at Springfield, Illinois, in the month of June of 
that year. The Whigs attended this meeting from all parts of 
the State in large numbers, and it was estimated that from 
forty to fifty thousand people were present. They came in 
carriages and wagons, on horseback and on foot. They came 
with log cabins drawn on wheels by oxen, and with coons, 
coon-skins, and hard cider. They came with music and ban- 
ners; and thousands of them came from long distances. It 
was the first political meeting I had ever attended, and it 
made a very strong impression upon my youthful mind. 

"My father, William H. Henderson, then a resident of 
Stark county, Illinois, was an ardent Whig; and having 
served under General William Henry Harrison, the then 
Whig candidate for President, in the war of 181 2-1 81 5, he 
felt a deep interest in his election. And although he lived 
about a hundred miles from Springfield, he went with a dele- 
gation from Stark county to this political meeting, and took 
me along with him. I remember that at this great meeting of 
the supporters of Harrison and Tyler there were a number of 
able and distinguished speakers of the Whig party of the 
State of Illinois present. Among them were Colonel E. D. 
Baker, who was killed at Ball's Bluff, on the Potomac, in the 
late war, and who was one of the most eloquent speakers in 
the State ; Colonel John J. Hardin, who was killed at the bat- 
tle of Buena Vista, in the Mexican war; Fletcher Webster, a 
son of Daniel Webster, who was killed in the late war; S. 
Leslie Smith, a brilliant orator of Chicago ; Rev. John Ho- 
gan, Ben Bond, and Abraham Lincoln. I heard all of these 
men speak on that occasion. And while I was too young to 
be a judge of their speeches, yet I thought them all to be 
great men, and none of them greater than Abraham Lin- 

The late Judge Scott of Illinois says of Lincoln's speech 
at that gathering, in an unpublished paper "Lincoln on the 
Stump and at the Bar" : 

"Mr. Lincoln stood in a wagon, from which he addressed 


the mass of people that surrounded it. The meeting was one 
of unusual interest because of him who was to make the prin- 
cipal address. It was at the time of his greatest physical 
strength. He was tall, and perhaps a little more slender than 
in later life, and more homely than after he became stouter in 
person. He was then only thirty-one years of age, and yet 
he was regarded as one of the ablest of the Whig speakers in 
that campaign. There was that in him that attracted and 
held public attention. Even then he was the subject of popu- 
lar regard because of his candid and simple mode of discuss- 
ing and illustrating political questions. At times he was in- 
tensely logical, and was always most convincing in his argu- 
ments. The questions involved in that canvass had relation 
to the tariff, internal public improvements by the federal gov- 
ernment, the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of pub- 
lic lands among the several States, and other questions that 
divided the political parties of that day. They were not such 
questions as enlisted and engaged his best thoughts ; they did 
not take hold of his great nature, and had no tendency to de- 
velop it. At times he discussed the questions of the time in a 
logical way, but much time was devoted to telling stories to 
illustrate some phase of his argument, though more often the 
telling of these stories was resorted to for the purpose of 
rendering his opponents ridiculous. That was a style of 
speaking much appreciated at that early day. In that kind of 
oratory he excelled most of his contemporaries — indeed, he 
had no equal in the State. One story he told on that occa- 
sion was full of salient points, and well illustrated the argu- 
ment he was making. It was not an impure story, yet it was 
not one it would be seemly to publish; but rendered, as it 
was, in his inimitable way, it contained nothing that was of- 
fensive to a refined taste. The same story might have been 
told by another in such a way that it would probably have 
been regarded as transcending the proprieties of popular ad- 
dress. One characterizing feature of all the stories told by 
Mr. Lincoln, on the stump and elsewhere, was that although 
the subject matter of some of them might not have been en- 
tirely unobjectionable, yet the manner of telling them was so 
peculiarly his own that they gave no offence even to refined 
and cultured people. On the contrary* they were much en- 


joyed. The story he told on this occasion was much liked by 
the vast assembly that surrounded the temporary platform 
from which he spoke, and was received with loud bursts of 
laughter and applause. It served to place the opposing party 
and its speakers in a most ludicrous position in respect to the 
question being considered, and gave him a most favorable 
hearing for the arguments he later made in support of the 
measures he was sustaining." 

Although so active as a Whig politician Lincoln was 
not prominent at this period as a legislator. Few bills 
originated with him. Among these few one of interest is the 
Illinois law requiring the examination of school teachers as 
to their qualifications, and providing for the granting of offi- 
cial certificates of authority to teach. In the pioneer days, 
any person whom circumstances forced into the business was 
permitted to teach. On December 2, 1840, Lincoln offered 
the following resolution in the Illinois House of Representa- 
tives : 

"Resolved, That the committee on education be instructed 
to inquire into the expediency of providing by law for the 
examination as to the qualification of persons offering them- 
selves as school teachers, that no teacher shall receive any 
part of the public school fund who shall not have success- 
fully passed such examination, and that they report by bill 
or otherwise." 

A motion to table this resolution was defeated. Within 
the ensuing three months the legislature passed "an act mak- 
ing provision for organizing and maintaining common 
schools" — the act which was the foundation of the common 
school system of Illinois. Section 81 of this act, providing 
for the qualification of teachers embodied Lincoln's idea. 
This section made it the duty of the school trustees in every 
township "to examine any person proposing to teach school 
in their vicinity in relation to the qualifications of such per- 
son as a teacher*" or they might appoint a board of commis- 


sioners to conduct the examination ; and a certificate of quali- 
fication was to be issued by a majority of the trustees or com- 
missioners. Since then, of course, all the States have passed 
laws providing for the examination of teachers. In Illinois, 
no material change has been made in Lincoln's plan (for this 
section of the law was very likely drawn by Lincoln), ex- 
cept that the power of examination has been transferred 
from the trustees or commissioners to the county superin- 
tendent of schools an office then unknown. 


Attorneys and Counsellors at Lawt* 

WILL practice, in conjunction, in tbeCir- 
Courtsof this Judicial District, an* n the Circuit 
Courts of the Counties of Pike, Schuyler and Peoria* 
Springfield, march, 1837. 8)-t 


ATTORNE VS and Counsellors at Law, will practice-, 
conjointly, in the Courts of this Judicial Circuit*— 
Office No. 4 Hoffman's Rew,'up stairs. 
Sprin gfield, aprill2, 1837. ' 4 , 

THE partnership heretofore existing between the un J 
dersigned, has been dissolved by mutual consent.—? 
TheTjusiixess will be found in the hands of John T. Siuatt. 
AprU12,1837. 84 HENRY E. DUMMER. 



Lincoln's engagement to mary todd — breaking of the 
engagement lincoln-shields duel 

Busy as Lincoln was with law and politics the first three 
years after he reached Springfield, he did not by any means 
fail to identify himself with the interests of the town and of 
its people. In all the intellectual life of the place he took his 
part. In the fall of 1837 with a few of the leading young 
men he formed a young men's lyceum. One of the very 
few of his early speeches which has been preserved was de- 
livered before this body, its subject being the Perpetuation 
of our Political Institutions. At the request of the mem- 
bers of the Lyceum this address was published in the "San- 
gamon Journal" for February 3, 1838. 

The most pleasing feature of his early life in the town was 
the way in which he attracted all classes of people to him. He 
naturally, from his political importance and from his relation 
to Mr. Stuart, was admitted to the best society. But Lincoln 
was not received there from tolerance of his position only. 
The few members left of that interesting circle of Springfield 
in the thirties are emphatic in their statements that he was 
recognized as a valuable social factor. If indifferent to forms 
and little accustomed to conventional usages, he had a native 
dignity and self-respect which stamped him at once as a su- 
perior man. He had a good will, an easy adaptability to peo- 
ple, which made him take a hand in everything that went on. 
His name appears in every list of banqueters and merry- 
makers reported in the Springfield papers. He even served 
as committeeman for cotillion parties- " We liked Lincoln 




though he was not gay," said one charming and cultivated 
old lady to me in Springfield. "He rarely danced, he was 
never very attentive to ladies, but he was always a welcome 
guest everywhere, and the centre of a circle of animated 


S^aa fi>&a<HtAe> of uem ^oTtiAa.- 

ivu id le^uU^u^u. jfikcUed at a 

ffolMuon, &aAtu t to ve, aouett, at t&A 

a |^merteftn fs^ou**,' on to=motoow 

cvetUn* at 7 c'c&cd, &. <4(. 

December 1 6th, f839 


». r. speed. 

4. A. M'tLCHMANO. 




M. H. WASH, 


r. W. T01D. 





J. R. DlLLCK. 

H. m. COWAR05, 




From the collection of Mr. C. F. Gunther, Chicago. 

talkers. Indeed, I think the only thing we girls had against 
Lincoln was that he always attracted all the men around 

Lincoln's kindly interest and perfectly democratic feeling 
attached to him many people whom he never met save on the 


streets. Indeed his life in the streets of Springfield is a most 
touching and delightful study. He concerned himself in the 
progress of every building which was put up, of every new 
street which was opened; he passed nobody without recog- 
nition ; he seemed always to have time to stop and talk. He 
became, in fact, part of Springfield street life, just as he did 
of the town's politics and society. 

In 1840 Lincoln became engaged to be married to one of 
the favorite young women of Springfield, Miss Mary Todd, 
the sister-in-law of one of his political friends, a member of 
the "Long Nine" and a prominent citizen, Ninian W. Ed- 

Miss Todd came from a well-known family of Lexington, 
Kentucky; her father, Robert S. Todd, being one of the 
leading citizens of his State. She had come to Springfield 
in 1839 to live with her sister, Mrs. Edwards. She was a 
brilliant, witty, highly-educated girl, ambitious and spirited, 
with a touch of audacity which only made her more attrac- 
tive, and she at once took a leading position in Springfield 
society. There were many young unmarried men in the 
town, drawn there by politics, and Mr. Edwards's handsome 
home was opened to them in the. hospitable Southern way. 
After Mary Todd became an inmate of the Edwards house, 
the place was gayer than ever. She received much attention 
from Douglas, Shields, Lincoln, and several others. It was 
soon apparent, however, that Miss Todd preferred Lincoln. 
As the intimacy between them increased, Mr. and Mrs. Ed- 
wards protested. However honorable and able a man Lin- 
coln might be, he was still a "plebeian.' 5 His family were 
humble and poor; he was self-educated, without address or 
polish, careless of forms, indifferent to society. How could 
Mary Todd, brought up in a cultured home, accustomed to 
the refinements of life, ambitious for social position, accom- 
modate herself to so grave a nature, so dull an exterior? 


Miss Todd knew her own mind, however. She loved Lin- 
coln, and seems to have believed from the first in his future. 
Some time in 1840 they became engaged. 

But it was not long before there came the clashing in- 
evitable between two persons whose tastes and ambitions 
were so different. Miss Todd was jealous and exacting; 
Lincoln thoughtless and inattentive. He frequently failed 
to accompany her to the merry-makings which she wanted 
to attend and she, naturally enough, resented his neglect 
interpreting it as a purposed slight. Sometimes in revenge 
she went with Mr. Douglas or some other escort who of- 
fered. Reproaches and tears and misunderstandings fol- 
lowed. If the lovers made up, it was only to fall out again. 
At last Lincoln became convinced that they were incompati- 
ble, and resolved that he must break the engagement. But 
the knowledge that the girl loved him took away his cour- 
age. He felt that he must not draw back, and he became pro- 
foundly miserable. 

"Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, should any 
ever dc so, it is my intention to do all in my power to make 
her happy and contented ; and there is nothing I can imagine 
that would make me more unhappy than to fail in the ef- 
fort," Lincoln had written Miss Owens three years before. 
How could he make this brilliant, passionate creature to 
whom he was betrothed happy? 

A mortal dread of the result of the marriage, a harrow- 
ing doubt of his own feelings, possessed him. The experience 
is not so rare in the history of lovers that it should be re- 
garded, as it often has been, as something exceptional and 
abnormal in Lincoln's case. A reflective nature founded in 
melancholy, like Lincoln's, rarely undertakes even the sim- 
pler affairs of life without misgivings. He certainly experi- 
enced dread and doubt before entering on any new relation. 
When it came to forming the most delicate and intimate of 


all human relations, he staggered under a burden of uncer- 
tainty and suffering and finally broke the engagement. 

So horrible a breach of honor did this seem to him that 
he called the day when it occurred the "fatal first of January, 
1 841," and months afterward he wrote to his intimate friend 
Speed: "I must regain my confidence in my own ability to 
keep my resolves when they are made. In that ability I once 
prided myself as the only or chief gem of my character ; that 
gem I lost — how and where you know too well. I have not 
yet regained it, and, until I do, I cannot trust myself in any 
matter of much importance." 

The breaking of the engagement between Miss Todd and 
Mr. Lincoln was known at the time to all their friends. Lin- 
coln's melancholy was evident to them all, nor did he, in- 
deed, attempt to disguise it. He wrote and spoke freely to 
his intimates of the despair which possessed him, and of his 
sense of dishonor. The episode caused a great amount of 
gossip, as was to be expected. After Mr. Lincoln's assassi- 
nation and Mrs. Lincoln's sad death, various accounts of 
the courtship and marriage were circulated. It remained, 
however, for one of Lincoln's law partners, Mr. W. H. 
Herndon, to develop and circulate the most sensational of 
all the versions of the rupture. According to Mr. Herndon, 
the engagement between the two was broken in the most 
violent and public way possible, by Mr. Lincoln's failing to 
appear at the wedding. Mr. Herndon even describes the 
scene in detail : 

"The time fixed for the marriage was the first day of Janu- 
ary, 1 84 1. Careful preparations for the happy occasion were 
made at the Edwards mansion. The house underwent the 
customary renovation ; the furniture was properly arranged, 
the rooms neatly decorated, the supper prepared, and the 
guests invited. The latter assembled on the evening in ques- 
tion, and awaited in expectant pleasure the interesting cere- 
mony of marriage. The bride, bedecked in veil and silken 


gown, and nervously toying with the flowers in her hair, sat 
in the adjoining room. Nothing was lacking but the groom. 
For some strange reason he had been delayed. An hour 
passed, and the guests, as well as the bride, were becoming 
restless. But they were all doomed to disappointment. An- 
other hour passed ; messengers were sent out over town, and 
each returning with the same report, it became apparent that 
Lincoln, the principal in this little drama, had purposely 
failed to appear. The bride, in grief, disappeared to her 
room; the wedding supper was left untouched; the guests 
quietly and wonderingly withdrew; the lights in the Ed- 
wards mansion were blown out, and darkness settled over all 
for the night. What the feelings of a lady as sensitive, pas- 
sionate, and proud as Miss Todd were, we can only imagine ; 
no one can ever describe them. By daybreak, after persistent 
search, Lincoln's friends found him. Restless, gloomy, 
miserable, desperate, he seemed an object of pity. His 
friends, Speed among the number, fearing a tragic termina- 
tion, watched him closely in their rooms day and night. 
'Knives and razors, and every instrument that could be used 
for self-destruction, were removed from his reach/ Mrs. 
Edwards did not hesitate to regard him as insane, and of 
course her sister Mary shared in that view." 

No one can read this description in connection with the 
rest of Mr. Herndon's text, and escape the impression that, 
if it is true, there must have been a vein of cowardice in 
Lincoln. The context shows that he was not insane enough 
to excuse such a public insult to a woman. To break his en- 
gagement was, all things considered, not an unusual or ab- 
normal thing; to brood over the rupture, to blame himself, 
to feel that he had been dishonorable, was to be expected, 
after such an act, from one of his temperament. Nothing, 
however, but temporary insanity or constitutional cowardice 
could explain such conduct as here described. Mr. Herndon 
does not pretend to found his story on any personal knowl- 
edge of the affair. He was in Springfield at the time, a clerk 
in Speed's store, but did not have then, nor, indeed, did he 


ever have, any social relations with the families in which 
Mr. Lincoln was always a welcome guest. His authority 
for the story is a remark which he says Mrs. Ninian Ed- 
wards made to him in an interview: "Lincoln and Mary 
were engaged; everything was ready and prepared for the 
marriage, even to the supper. Mr. Lincoln failed to meet his 
engagement; cause, insanity." This remark, it should be 
noted, is not from a manuscript written by Mrs. Edwards, 
but in a report of an interview with her, written by Mr. 
Herndon. Supposing, however, that the statement was made 
exactly as Mr. Herndon reports it, it certainly does not 
justify any such sensational description as Mr. Herndon 

If such a thing had ever occurred, it could not have failed 
to be known, of course, even to its smallest details, by all the 
relatives and friends of both Miss Todd and Mr. Lincoln. 
Nobody, however, ever heard of this wedding party until 
Mr. Herndon gave his material to the public. 

One of the closest friends of the Lincolns throughout their 
lives was a cousin of Mrs. Lincoln's, Mrs. Grimsley, after- 
wards Mrs. Dr. Brown. Mrs. Grimsley lived in Springfield, 
on the most intimate and friendly relations with Mr. and 
Mrs. Lincoln, and the first six months of their life in the 
White House she spent with them. She was a woman of un- 
usual culture, and of the rarest sweetness and graciousness 
of character. Some months before Mrs. Brown's death, in 
August, 1895, a copy of Mr. Herndon's story was sent her, 
with a request that she write for publication her knowledge 
of the affair. In her reply she said : 

"Did Mr. Lincoln fail to appear when the invitations were 
out, the guests invited, and the supper ready for the wed- 
ding? I will say emphatically, 'No.' 

"There may have been a little shadow of foundation for 
Mr. Herndon's lively imagination to play upon, in that, the 
year previous to the marriage, and when Mr. Lincoln and 


my cousin Mary expected soon to be married, Mr. Lincoln 
was taken with one of those fearful, overwhelming periods 
of depression, which induced his friends to persuade him to 
leave Springfield. This he did for a time ; but I am satisfied 
he was loyal and true to Mary, even though at times he may 
have doubted whether he was responding as fully as a manly, 
generous nature should to such affection as he knew my 
cousin was ready to bestow on him. And this because it had 
not the overmastering depth of an early love. This every- 
body here knows ; therefore I do not feel as if I were betray* 
ing dear friends." 

Mrs. John Stuart, the wife of Lincoln's law partner at 
that time, is still living in Springfield, a refined, cultivated, 
intelligent woman, who remembers perfectly the life and 
events of that day. When Mr. Herndon's story first came 
to her attention, her indignation was intense. She protested 
that she never before had heard of such a thing. Mrs. Stuart 
was not, however, in 'Springfield at that particular date, but 
in Washington, her husband being a member of Congress. 
She wrote the following statement for this biography : 

"I cannot deny this, as I was not in Springfield for some 
months before and after this occurrence was said to have 
taken place ; but I was in close correspondence with relatives 
and friends during all this time, and never heard a word of 
it. The late Judge Broadwell told me that he had asked 
Mr. Ninian Edwards about it, and Mr. Edwards told him 
that no such thing had ever taken place. 

"All I can say is that I unhesitatingly do not believe such 
an event ever occurred. I thought I had never heard of 
this till I saw it in Herndon's book. I have since been told 
that Lamon mentions the same thing. I read Lamon at the 
time he published, and felt very much disgusted, but did not 
remember this particular assertion. The first chapters of 
Lamon' s book were purchased from Herndon; so Herndon 
is responsible for the whole. 

"Mrs. Lincoln told me herself all the circumstances of her 
engagement to Mr. Lincoln, of his illness, and the breaking 



off of her engagement, of the renewal, and her marriage. 
So I say I do not believe one word of this dishonorable story 
about Mr. Lincoln." 

Another prominent member in the same circle with Mr. 
Lincoln and Miss Todd is Mrs. B. T. Edwards, the widow 
of Judge Benjamin T. Edwards, the sister-in-law of Mr. 
Ninian Edwards, who had married Miss Todd's sister. She 
came to Springfield in 1839, an d was intimately acquainted 
with Mr. Lincoln and Miss Todd, and knew, as well as an- 
other could know, their affairs. Mrs. Edwards is still living 
in Springfield, a woman of the most perfect refinement and 
trustworthiness. In answer to the question, "Is Mr. Hern- 
don's description true?" she writes: 

"I am impatient to tell you that all that he says about this 
wedding — the time for which was 'fixed for the first day of 
January' — is a fabrication. He has drawn largely upon his 
imagination in describing something which never took place. 

"I know the engagement between Mr. Lincoln and Miss 
Todd was interrupted for a time, and it was rumored among 
her young friends that Mr. Edwards had rather opposed it. 
But I am sure there had been no 'time fixed' for any wed- 
ding; that is, no preparations had ever been made until the 
day that Mr. Lincoln met Mr. Edwards on the street and told 
him that he and Mary were going to be married that even- 
ing. Upon inquiry, Mr. Lincoln said they would be married 
in the Episcopal church, to which Mr. Edwards replied : 'No; 
Mary is my ward, and she must be married at my house.' 

"If I remember rightly, the wedding guests were few, not 
more than thirty; and it seems to me all are gone now but 
Mrs. Wallace, Mrs. Levering, and myself, for it was not 
much more than a family gathering; only two or three of 
Mary Todd's young friends were present. The 'entertain- 
ment' was simple, but in beautiful taste; but the bride had 
neither veil nor flowers in her hair, with which to 'toy 
nervously.' There had been no elaborate trousseau for the 
bride of the future President of the United States, nor even 
a handsome wedding gown ; nor was it a gay wedding." 


Two sisters of Mrs. Lincoln who are still living, Mrs. 
Wallace of Springfield, and Mrs. Helm of Elizabethstown, 
Kentucky, deny emphatically that any wedding was ever ar- 
ranged between Mr. Lincoln and Miss Todd but the one 
which did take place. That the engagement was broken 
after a wedding had been talked of, they think possible ; but 
Mr. Herndon's story, they deny emphatically. 

"There is not a word of truth in it I" Mrs. Wallace broke 
out, impulsively, before the question about the non-appear- 
ance of Mr. Lincoln had been finished. "I never was so 
amazed in my life as when I read that story. Mr. Lincoln 
never did such a thing. Why, Mary Lincoln never had a 
silk dress in her life until she went to Washington." 

As Mr. Joshua Speed was, all through this period, Mr. 
Lincoln's closest friend, no thought or feeling of the one ever 
being concealed from the other, Mrs. Joshua Speed, who is 
still living in Louisville, Kentucky, was asked if she knew 
of the story. Mrs. Speed listened in surprise to Mr. Hern- 
don's tale. "I never heard of it before," she declared. "I 
never heard of it. If it is true, I never heard of it." 

While the above investigation was going on quite unex- 
pectedly, a volunteer witness to the falsity of the story ap- 
peared. The Hon. H. W. Thornton of Millersburg, Illinois, 
was a member of the Twelfth General Assembly, which met 
in Springfield in 1840. During that winter he was boarding 
near Lincoln, saw him almost every day, was a constant visi- 
tor at Mr. Edwards's house, and he knew Miss Todd well. 
He wrote to the author declaring that Mr. Herndon's state- 
ment about the wedding must be false, as he was closely asso- 
ciated with Miss Todd and Mr. Lincoln all winter, and never 
knew anything of it. Mr. Thornton went on to say that he 
knew beyond a doubt that the sensational account of Lin- 
coln's insanity was untrue, and he quoted from the House 
journal to show how it was impossible that, as Lamon says, 


using Herndon's notes, "Lincoln went crazy as a loon, and 
did not attend the legislature in 1 841- 1842, for this rea- 
son;" or, as Herndon says, that he had to be watched con- 
stantly. According to the record taken from the journals of 
the House by Mr. Thornton, and which have been verified in 
Springfield, Mr. Lincoln was in his seat in the House on 
that "fatal first of January" when he is asserted to have been 
groping in the shadow of madness, and he was also there on 
the following day. The third of January was Sunday. On 
Monday, the fourth, he appears not to have been present — 
at least he did not vote; but even this is by no means con- 
clusive evidence that he was not there. On the fifth, and on 
every succeeding day until the thirteenth, he was in his seat. 
From the thirteenth to the eighteenth, inclusive, he is not 
recorded on any of the roll-calls, and probably was not pres- 
ent. But on the nineteenth, when "John J. Hardin announced 
his illness to the House," as Mr. Herndon says (which an- 
nouncement seems not to have gotten into the journal), Lin- 
coln was again in his place, and voted. On the twentieth he 
is not recorded ; but on every subsequent day, until the close 
of the session on the first of March, Lincoln was in the 
House. Thus, during the whole of the two months of Janu- 
ary and February, he was absent not more than seven days 
— as good a record of attendance, perhaps, as that made by 
the average member. 

Mr. Thornton says further: "Mr. Lincoln boarded at 
William Butler's, near to Dr. Henry's, where I boarded. The 
missing days, from January 13th to 19th, Mr. Lincoln spent 
several hours each day at Dr. Henry's ; a part of these days 
I remained with Mr. Lincoln. His most intimate friends 
had no fears of his injuring himself. He was very sad and 
melancholy, but being subject to these spells, nothing seriou9 
was apprehended. His being watched, as stated in Hern* 
don's book, was news to me until I saw it there." 


But while Lincoln went about his daily duties, even on the 
"fatal first of January," — the day when he broke his word to 
Miss Todd, his whole being was shrouded in gloom. He 
did not pretend to conceal this from his friends. Writing to 
Mr. Stuart on January 23d, he said : 

"I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel 
were equally distributed to the whole human family, there 
would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I 
shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall 
not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be 
better, it appears to me. The matter you speak of on my 
account you may attend to as you say, unless you shall hear 
of my condition forbidding it. I say this because I fear I 
shall be unable to attend to any business here, and a change 
of scene might help me." 

In the summer he visited his friend Speed, who had sold 
his store in Springfield, and returned to Louisville, Ken- 
tucky. The visit did much to brighten his spirits, for, writ- 
ing back in September, after his return, to his friend's sister, 
he was even gay. 

A curious situation arose the next year ( 1842), which did 
much to restore Lincoln to a more normal view of his relation 
to Miss Todd. In the summer of 1841, his friend Speed 
had become engaged. As the time for his marriage ap- 
proached, he in turn was attacked by a melancholy not un- 
like that from which Lincoln had suffered. He feared he did 
not love well enough to marry, and he confided his fear to 
Lincoln. Full of sympathy for the trouble of his friend, Lin- 
coln tried in every way to persuade him that his "twinges 
of the soul" were all explained by nervous debility. When 
Speed returned to Kentucky, Lincoln wrote him several let- 
ters, in which he consoled, counselled, or laughed at him. 
These letters abound in suggestive passages. From what did 
Speed suffer ? From three special causes and a general one, 
which Lincoln proceeds to enumerate : 


"The general cause is, that you are naturally of a ncrvou3 
temperament; and this I say from what I have seen of you 
personally, and what you have told me concerning your 
mother at various times, and concerning your brother Will- 
iam at the time his wife died. The first special cause is your 
exposure to bad weather on your journey, which my ex- 
perience clearly proves to be very severe on defective nerves. 
The second is the absence of all business and conversation of 
friends, which might divert your mind, give it occasional rest 
from the intensity of thought which will sometimes wear the 
sweetest idea threadbare and turn it to the bitterness of 
death. The third is the rapid and near approach of that 
crisis on which all your thoughts and feelings concentrate.' ' 

Speed writes that his fiancee is ill, and his letter is full of 
gloomy forebodings of an early death. Lincoln hails these 
fears as an omen of happiness. 

"I hope and believe that your present anxiety and distress 
ibout her health and her life must and will forever banish 
those horrid doubts which I know you sometimes felt as to 
the truth of your affection for her. If they can once and for- 
ever be removed (and I almost feel a presentiment that the 
Almighty has sent your present affliction expressly for that 
object), surely nothing can come in their stead to fill their 
immeasurable measure of misery. It really appears to me 
that you yourself ought to rejoice, and not sorrow, at this in- 
dubitable evidence of your undying affection for her. Why, 
Speed, if you did not love her, although you might not wish 
her death, you would most certainly be resigned to it. Per- 
haps this point is no longer a question with you, and my 
pertinacious dwelling upon it is a rude intrusion upon your 
feelings. If so, you must pardon me. You know the hell I 
have suffered on that point, and how tender I am upon it. 
... I am now fully convinced that you love her as ardently 
as you are capable of loving. Your ever being happy in her 
presence, and your intense anxiety about her health, if there 
were nothing else, would place this beyond all dispute in my 
mind. I incline to think it probable that your nerves will fail 
you occasionally for a while; but once you get them firmly 


guarded now, that trouble is over forever. I think, if I were 
you, in case my mind were not exactly right, I would avoid 
being idle. I would immediately engage in some business or 
go to making preparations for it, which would be the same 

Mr. Speed's marriage occurred in February, and to the 
letter announcing it Lincoln replied : 

"I opened the letter with intense anxiety and trepidation ; 
so much so, that, although it turned out better than I ex- 
pected, I have hardly yet, at a distance of ten hours, become 

"I tell you, Speed, our forebodings (for which you and I 
are peculiar) are all the worst sort of nonsense. I fancied, 
from the time I received your letter of Saturday, that the 
one of Wednesday was never to come, and yet it did come, 
and what is more, it is perfectly clear, both from its tone 
and handwriting, that you were much happier, or, if you 
think the term preferable, less miserable, when you wrote it 
than when you wrote the last one before. You had so ob- 
viously improved at the very time I so much fancied you 
would have grown worse. You say that something indes- 
cribably horrible and alarming still haunts you. You will 
not say that three months from now, I will venture. When 
your nerves once get steady now, the whole trouble will be 
over forever. Nor should you become impatient at their 
being even very slow in becoming steady. Again you say, 
you much fear that that Elysium of which you have dreamed 
so much is never to be realized. Well, if it shall not, I dare 
swear it will not be the fault of her who is now your wife. 
I now have no doubt that it is the peculiar misfortune of 
both you and me to dream dreams of Elysium far exceeding 
all that anything earthly can realize." 

His prophecy was true. In March Speed wrote him that 
he was "far happier than he had ever expected to be." Lin- 
coln caught at the letter with pathetic eagerness. 

"It cannot be told how it now thrills me with joy to hear 
you say you are 'far happier than vou ever expected to be/ 


That much I know is enough. I know you too well to sup- 
pose your expectations were not, at least, sometimes ex- 
travagant, and if the reality exceeds them all, I say, Enough, 
dear Lord. I am not going beyond the truth when I tell 
you that the short space it took me to read your last 
letter gave me more pleasure than the total sum of all I 
have enjoyed since the fatal ist of January, 1841. Since 
then it seems to me I should have been entirely happy, but 
for the never-absent idea that there is one still unhappy 
whom I have contributed to make so. That still kills my soul. 
I cannot but reproach myself for even wishing to be happy 
while she is otherwise. She accompanied a large party on 
the railroad cars to Jacksonville last Monday, and on her re- 
turn spoke, so that I heard of it, of having enjoyed the trip 
exceedingly. God be praised for that." 

Evidently Lincoln was still unreconciled to his separation 
from Miss Todd. In the summer of 1842, only three or four 
months after the above letter was written, a clever ruse on 
the part of certain of their friends threw the two unexpect- 
edly together ; and an understanding of some kind evidently 
was reached, for during the season they met secretly at the 
house of one of Lincoln's friends, Mr. Simeon Francis. It 
was while these meetings were going on that a burlesque en- 
counter occurred between Lincoln and James Shields, for 
which Miss Todd was partly responsible, and which no doubt 
gave just the touch of comedy necessary to relieve their 
tragedy and restore them to a healthier view of their rela- 

Among the Democratic officials then living in Springfield 
was the auditor of the State, James Shields. He was a hot- 
headed, blustering Irishman, not without ability, and cer- 
tainly courageous; a good politician, and, on the whole, a 
very well-liked man. However, the swagger and noise with 
which he accompanied the execution of his duties, and his 
habit of being continually on the defensive, made him the 
butt of Whig ridicule. Nothing could have given greater 


satisfaction to Lincoln and his friends than having an op- 
ponent who, whenever they joked him, flew into a rage and 
challenged them to fight. 

At the time Lincoln was visiting Miss Todd at Mr. Fran- 
cis's house, the Whigs were much excited over the fact that 
the Democrats had issued an order forbidding the payment 
of State taxes in State bank-notes. The bank-notes were in 
fact practically worthless, for the State finances were suffer- 
ing a violent reaction from the extravagant legislation of 
1836 and 1837. One of the popular ways of attacking an 
obnoxious political doctrine in that day was writing letters 
from some imaginary backwoods settlement, setting forth in 
homely vernacular the writer's views of the question, and 
showing how its application affected his part of the world. 
These letters were really a rude form of the " Biglow Pa- 
pers " or " Nasby Letters." Soon after the order was issued 
by the Illinois officials demanding silver instead of bank- 
notes in payment of taxes, Lincoln wrote a letter to a Spring- 
field paper from the "Lost Townships," signing it "Aunt 
Rebecca." In it he described the plight to which the new or- 
der had brought the neighborhood, and he intimated that the 
only reason for issuing such an order was that the State of- 
ficers might have their salaries paid in silver. Shields was 
ridiculed unmercifully in the letter for his vanity and his 

It happened that there were several young women in 
Springfield who had received rather too pronounced atten- 
tion from Mr. Shields, and who were glad to see him tor- 
mented. Among them were Miss Todd and her friend Miss 
Julia Jayne. Lincoln's letter from the "Lost Townships" 
was such a success that they followed it up with one in which 
"Aunt Rebecca" proposed to the gallant auditor, and a few 
days later they published some very bad verses, signed 
"Cathleen," celebrating the wedding. 


Springfield was highly entertained, less by the verses than 
by the fury of Shields. He would have satisfaction, he said, 
and he sent a friend, one General Whitesides, to the paper, 
to ask for the name of the writer of the communications. 
The editor, in a quandary, went to Lincoln, who, unwilling 
that Miss Todd and Miss Jayne should figure in the affair, 
ordered that his own name be given as the author of letters 
and poem. This was only about ten days after the first let- 
ter had appeared, on September 2d, and Lincoln left Spring- 
field in a day or two for a long trip on the circuit. He was 
at Tremont when, on the morning of the seventeenth, two 
of his friends, E. H. Merryman and William Butler, drove 
up hastily. Shields and his friend Whitesides were behind, 
they said, the irate Irishman vowing that he would challenge 
Lincoln. They, knowing that Lincoln was "unpractised both 
as to diplomacy and weapons," had started as soon as they 
had learned that Shields had left Springfield, had passed him 
in the night, and were there to see Lincoln through. 

It was not long before Shields and Whitesides arrived, and 
soon Lincoln received a note in which the indignant writer 
said : "I will take the liberty of requiring a full, positive, and 
absolute retraction of all offensive allusions used by you in 
these communications in relation to my private character 
and standing as a man, as an apology for the insults con- 
veyed in them. This may prevent consequences which no 
one will regret more than myself." 

Lincoln immediately replied that, since Shields had not 
stopped to inquire whether he really was the author of the 
articles, had not pointed out what was offensive in them, had 
assumed facts and hinted at consequences, he could not sub- 
mit to answer the note. Shields wrote again, but Lincoln 
simply replied that he could receive nothing but a withdrawal 
of the first note or a challenge. To this he steadily held, even 
refusing to answer the Question as tc the authorship of the 


letters, which Shields finally put. It was inconsistent with 
his honor to negotiate for peace with Mr. Shields, he said, 
unless Mr. Shields withdrew his former offensive letter. 
Seconds were immediately named: Whitesides by Shields, 
Merryman by Lincoln; and though they talked of peace, 
Whitesides declared he could not mention it to his principal. 
"He would challenge me next, and as soon cut my throat as 

This was on the nineteenth, and that night the party re- 
turned to Springfield. But in some way the affair had leaked 
out, and fearing arrest, Lincoln and Merryman left town the 
next morning. The instructions were left with Butler. If 
Shields would withdraw his first note, and write another 
asking if Lincoln was the author of the offensive articles, 
and, if so, asking for gentlemanly satisfaction, then Lincoln 
had prepared a letter explaining the whole affair. If Shields 
would not do this, there was nothing to do but fight. Lin- 
coln left the following preliminaries for the duel : 

"First. Weapons: Cavalry broadswords of the largest 
size, precisely equal in all respects, and such as now used by 
the cavalry company at Jacksonville. 

"Second. Position : A plank ten feet long, and from nine 
to twelve inches broad, to be firmly fixed on edge, on the 
ground, as the line between us, which neither is to pass his 
foot over on forfeit of his life. Next a line drawn on the 
ground on either side of said plank and parallel with it, each 
at the distance of the whole length of the sword and three 
feet additional from the plank; and the passing of his own 
such line by either party during the fight shall be deemed a 
surrender of the contest. 

"Third. Time: On Thursday evening at five o'clock, if 
you can get it so ; but in no case to be at a greater distance of 
time than Friday evening at five o'clock. 

"Fourth. Place: Within three miles of Alton, on the op- 
posite side of the river, the particular spot to be agreed on 
by yoHL- ,> 


As Mr. Shields refused to withdraw his first note, the exh 
tire party started for the rendezvous across the Mississippi. 
Lincoln and Merryman drove together in a dilapidated old 
buggy, in the bottom of which rattled a number of broad- 
swords. It was the morning of the 226. of September when 
the duellists arrived in the town. There are people still liv- 
ing in Alton who remember their coming. "The party ar- 
rived about the middle of the morning," says Mr. Edward 
Levis, "and soon crossed the river to a sand-bar which at the 
time was, by reason of the low water, a part of the Missouri 
mainland. The means of conveyance was an old horse-ferry 
that was operated by a man named Chapman. The weapons 
were in the keeping of the friends of the principals, and no 
care was taken to conceal them ; in fact, they were openly dis- 
played. Naturally, there was a great desire among the male 
population to attend the duel, but the managers of the affair 
would not permit any but their own party to board the ferry- 
boat. Skiffs were very scarce, and but a few could avail 
themselves of the opportunity in this way. I had to content 
myself with standing on the levee and watching proceedings 
at long range. " 

As soon as the parties reached the island the seconds be- 
gan preparations for the duel, the principals meanwhile seat- 
ing themselves on logs on opposite sides of the field — a half- 
cleared spot in the timber. One of the spectators says : 

"I watched Lincoln closely while he sat on his log awaiting 
the signal to fight. His face was grave and serious. I could 
discern nothing suggestive of 'Old Abe/ as we knew him. I 
never knew him to go so long before without making a joke, 
and I began to believe he was getting frightened. But pres- 
ently he reached over and picked up one of the swords, which 
he drew from its scabbard. Then he felt along the edge of 
the weapon with his thumb, like a barber feels of the edge of 
his razor, raised himself to his full height, stretched out his 
long arms and clipped off a twig from above his head with 


the sword. There wasn't another man pi us who could have 
reached anywhere near that twig, and the absurdity of that 
long-reaching fellow righting with cavalry sabers with 
Shields, who could walk under his arm, came pretty near 
making me howl with laughter. After Lincoln had cut off 
the twig he returned the sword to the scabbard with a sigh 
and sat down, but I detected the gleam in his eye, which was 
always the forerunner of one of his inimitable yarns, and 
fully expected him to tell a side-splitter there in the shadow 
of the grave — Shields's grave." 

The arrangements for the affair were about completed 
when the duellists were joined by some unexpected friends. 
Lincoln and Merryman, on their way to Alton, had stopped 
at White Hall for dinner. Across the street from the hotel 
lived Mr. Elijah Lott, an acquaintance of Merryman. Mr. 
Lott was not long in finding out what was on foot, and as 
soon as the duellists had departed, he drove to Carrollton, 
where he knew that Colonel John J. Hardin and several 
other friends of Lincoln were attending court, and warned 
them of the trouble. Hardin and one or two others imme- 
diately started for Alton. They arrived in time to calm 
Shields, and to aid the seconds in adjusting matters "with 
honor to all concerned. ,, 

That the duellists returned in good spirits is evident from 
Mr. Levis' s reminiscences : "It was not very long/' says he, 
"until the boat was seen returning to Alton. As it drew near 
I saw what was presumably a mortally wounded man lying 
in the bow of the boat. His shirt appeared to be bathed in 
blood. I distinguished Jacob Smith, a constable, fanning the 
supposed victim vigorously. The people on the bank held 
their breath in suspense, and guesses were freely made as to 
which of the two men had been so terribly wounded. But 
suspense was soon turned to chagrin and relief when it tran- 
spired that the supposed candidate for another world was 
nothing more nor less than a log covered with a red shirt. 


This ruse had been resorted to in order to fool the people on 
the levee ; and it worked to perfection. Lincoln and Shields 
came off the boat together, chatting in a nonchalant and 
pleasant manner." 

The Lincoln-Shields duel had so many farcical features, 
and Miss Todd had unwittingly been so much to blame for 
it, that one can easily see that it might have had considerable 
influence on the relations of the two young people. However 
that may be, something had made Mr. Lincoln feel that he 
could renew his engagement. Early in October, not a fort- 
night after the duel, he wrote Speed : "You have now been 
the husband of a lovely woman nearly eight months. That 
you are happier now than the day you married her I well 
know, for without you would not be living. But I have your 
word for it, too, and the returning elasticity of spirits which 
is manifested in your letters. But I want to ask a close ques- 
tion : Are you now in feelings as well as judgment glad that 
you are married as you are ? 

"From anybody but me this would be an impudent ques- 
tion, not to be tolerated ; but I know that you will pardon it 
in me. Please answer it quickly, as I am impatient to know." 

We do not know Speed's answer, nor the final struggle 
of the man's heart. We only know that on November 4, 
1842, Lincoln was married, the wedding being almost im- 
promptu. Mrs. Dr. Brown, Miss Todd's cousin, in the same 
letter quoted from above, describes the wedding : 

"One morning, bright and early, my cousin came down in 
her excited, impetuous way, and said to my father : 'Uncle, 
you must go up and tell my sister that Mr. Lincoln and I 
are to be married this evening,' and to me : 'Get on your bon- 
net and go with me to get my gloves, shoes, etc., and then to 
Mr. Edwards's/ When we reached there we found some ex- 
citement over a wedding being sprung upon them so sud- 
denly. However, my father, in his lovely, pacific way, 
'poured oil upon the waters/ and we thought everything was 


'ship-shape/ when Mrs. Edwards laughingly said : 'How for- 
tunately you selected this evening, for the Episcopal Sewing 
Society is to meet here, and my supper is all ordered.' 

"But that comfortable little arrangement would not hold, 
as Mary declared she would not make a spectacle for gossip- 
ing ladies to gaze upon and talk about; there had already 


3FEHS ESflMfJ&is m? SUES ©S'A'SS OIF 22)Effl(2)E^o 
To any Minister of the Gospel, or other authorised Person-GREETING. 

&232I>©2}§ ate to y^lcertie, (Mtdp&imtb w>w to loin, w, tfte &>L ixwbi 
of <0<jUtufiAiiy Jf^^aMa^^c^^^^^yu «& 

tfoAUUM\UM, <w% {ftate of jtUnoU, and Vol to <Wiria<, tftrt iJLSi it uou* 
4§Wi/ mtde*/ ma &ctu) and Uel of c$Ue, at 



>W*'/yS/y*/>'S/y 1 *"jr ■ */'<r//j*/ ■'*< .*'■ -> . 

^^^^ _ M^:J*~~*- t-z *&y 

J.~. /Mu 


From the original on file in the County Clerk's office of Springfield, 111. 

been too much talk about her. Then my father was des- 
patched to tell Mr. Lincoln that the wedding would be de- 
ferred until the next evening. Clergyman, attendants and 
intimate friends were notified, and on Friday evening, in the 
midst of a small circle of friends, with the elements doing 
their worst in the way of rain, this singular courtship 
culminated in marriage. This I know to be literally true, as 
I was one of her bridesmaids, Miss Jayne (afterwards Mrs. 
Lyman Trumbull) and Miss Rodney being the others." 





For eight successive years Lincoln had been a member of 
the General Assembly of Illinois. It was quite long enough, 
in his judgment, and his friends seem to have wanted to give 
him something better, for in 1841 they offered to support 
him as a candidate for governor of the State. This, how- 
ever, he refused. His ambition was to go to Washington. 
In 1842 he declined renomination for the assembly and be- 
came a candidate for Congress. He did not wait to be asked, 
nor did he leave his case in the hands of his friends. He 
frankly announced his desire, and managed his own canvass. 
There was no reason, in Lincoln's opinion, for concealing 
political ambition. He recognized, at the same time, the 
legitimacy of the ambition of his friends, and entertained no 
suspicion or rancor if they contested places with him. 

"Do you suppose that I should ever have got into notice 
if I had waited to be hunted up and pushed forward by older 
men?" he wrote his friend Herndon once, when the latter 
was complaining that the older men did not help him on. 
"The way for a young man to rise is to improve himself 
every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes to 
hinder him. Allow me to assure you that suspicion and jeal- 
ousy never did help any man in any situation. There may 
sometimes be ungenerous attempts to keep a young man 
down ; and they will succeed, too, if he allows his mind to be 
diverted from its true channel to brood over the attempted 



injury. Cast about, and see if this feeling has not injured 
every person you have ever known to fall into it." 

Lincoln had something more to do, however, in 1842, than 
simply to announce himself in the innocent manner of early 
politics. The convention system introduced into Illinois in 
1835 by the Democrats had been zealously opposed by all 
good Whigs, Lincoln included, until constant defeat taught 
them that to resist organization by an every-man-for-himself 
policy was hopeless and wasteful, and that if they would 
succeed they must meet organization with organization. In 
1 84 1 a Whig State convention had been called to nominate 
candidates for the offices of governor and lieutenant-gover- 
nor; and now, in March, 1843, a Whig meeting was held 
again at Springfield, at which the party's platform was laid, 
and a committee, of which Lincoln was a member, was ap- 
pointed to prepare an "Address to the People of Illinois/' 
In this address the convention system was earnestly de- 
fended. Against this rapid adoption of the abominated sys- 
tem many of the Whigs protested, and Lincoln found him- 
self supporting before his constituents the tactics he had once 
warmly opposed. In a letter to his friend John Bennett, of 
Petersburg, written in March, 1843, he said: 

"I am sorry to hear that any of the Whigs of your county, 
or of any county, should longer be against conventions. On 
last Wednesday evening a meeting of all the Whigs then here 
from all parts of the State was held, and the question of the 
propriety of conventions was brought up and fully discussed, 
and at the end of the discussion a resolution recommending 
the system of conventions to all the Whigs of the State was 
unanimously adopted. Other resolutions were also passed, 
all of which will appear in the next 'Journal/ The meeting 
also appointed a committee to draft an address to the people 
<of the State, which address will also appear in the next 'Jour- 
nal/ In it you will find a brief argument in favor of con- 
ventions, and, although I wrote it myself, I will say to you 



that it is conclusive upon the point, and cannot be reasonably 

"If there be any good Whig who is disposed still to stick 
out against conventions, get him, at least, to read the argu* 
ment in their favor in the 'Address/ " 

The "brief argument" which Lincoln thought so conclu- 
sive, "if he did write it himself," justified his good opinion. 
After its circulation there were few found to "stick out 
against conventions." 

The Whigs of the various counties in the Congressional 
district met on April 5, as they had been instructed to do, 
and chose delegates. John J. Hardin of Jacksonville, Ed- 
ward D. Baker and Abraham Lincoln of Springfield, were 
the three candidates for whom these delegates were in- 

To Lincoln's keen disappointment, the delegation from 
Sangamon county was instructed for Baker. A variety of 
social and personal influences, besides Baker's popularity, 
worked against Lincoln. "It would astonish, if not amuse, 
the older citizens," wrote Lincoln to a friend, "to learn that 
I (a stranger, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy, working 
on a flatboat at ten dollars per month) have been put down 
here as the candidate of pride, wealth, and aristocratic family 
distinction." He was not only accused of being an aristo- 
crat, he was called "a deist." He had fought, or been about 
to fight, a duel. His wife's relations were Episcopalian and 
Presbyterian. He and she attended a Presbyterian church. 
These influences alone could not be said to have defeated 
him, he wrote, but "they levied a tax of considerable per cent, 
upon my strength." 

The meeting that named Baker as its choice for Congress 
appointed Lincoln one of the delegates to the convention. 
"In getting Baker the nomination," Lincoln wrote to Speed, 
"I shall be fixed a good deal like a fellow who is made a 


groomsman to a man that has cut him out, and is marrying 
his own dear 'gal.' " From the first, however, he stood 
bravely by Baker. "I feel myself bound not to hinder him in 
any way from getting the nomination ; I should despise my- 
self were I to attempt it," he wrote certain of his constituents 
who were anxious that he should attempt to secure the nomi- 
nation in spite of his instructions. It was soon evident to 
both Lincoln and Baker that John J. Hardin was probably 
the strongest candidate in the district, and so it proved when 
the convention met in May, 1843, at Pekin. 

It has frequently been charged that in this Pekin conven- 
tion, Hardin, Baker, and Lincoln agreed to take in turn the 
three next nominations to Congress, thus establishing a spe- 
cies of rotation in office. This charge cannot be sustained. 
What occurred at the Pekin convention is here related by 
one of the delegates, the Hon. J. M. Ruggles of Havana, 

"When the convention assembled," writes Mr. Ruggles, 
"Baker was there with his friend and champion delegate, 
Abraham Lincoln. The ayes and noes had been taken, and 
there were fifteen votes apiece, and one in doubt that had not 
arrived. That was myself. I was known to be a warm 
friend of Baker, representing people who were partial to 
Hardin. As soon as I arrived Baker hurried to me, saying : 
'How is it? It all depends on you.' On being told that not- 
withstanding my partiality for him, the people I represented 
expected me to vote for Hardin, and that I would have to 
do so, Baker at once replied : 'You are right — there is no 
other way/ The convention was organized, and I was elected 
secretary. Baker immediately arose, and made a most thrill- 
ing address, thoroughly arousing the sympathies of the con- 
vention, and ended by declining his candidacy. Hardin was 
nominated by acclamation ; and then came the episode. 

"Immediately after the nomination, Mr. Lincoln walked 
across the room to my table, and asked if I would favor a 
resolution recommending Baker for the next term. On be- 


ing answered in the affirmative, he said: 'You prepare the 
resolution, I will support it, and I think we can pass it.' The 
resolution created a profound sensation, especially with the 
friends of Hardin. After an excited and angry discussion, 
the resolution passed by a majority of one." 

Lincoln supported Hardin energetically in the campaign 
which followed. In a letter to the former written on May 
nth, just after the convention, he says: 

"Butler informs me that he received a letter from you in 
which you expressed some doubt as to whether the Whigs of 
Sangamon will support you cordially. You may at once dis- 
miss all fears on that subject. We have already resolved to 
make a particular effort to give you the very largest majority 
possible in our county. From this no Whig of the county 
dissents. We have many objects for doing it. We make it 
a matter of honor and pride to do it ; we do it because we love 
the Whig cause; we do it because we like you personally; 
and, last, we wish to convince you that we do not bear that 
hatred to Morgan County that you people have seemed so 
long to imagine. You will see by the 'Journal' of this week 
that we propose, upon pain of losing a barbecue, to give you 
twice as great a majority in this county as you shall receive 
in your own. I got up the proposal." 

Lincoln was true to his promise and after Hardin was 
elected and in Washington he kept him informed of much 
that went on in the district ; thus in an amusing letter written 
in May, 1844, while the latter was in Congress, he tells him 
of one disgruntled constituent who must be pacified, giving 
him, at the same time, a hint as to the temper of the "Loco- 

"Knowing that you have correspondents enough, I have 
forborne to trouble you heretofore," he writes ; "and I now 
only do so to get you to set a matter right which has got 
wrong with one of our best friends. It is old Uncle Thomas 
Campbell of Spring Creek ( Berlin P. O. ) . He has received 


several documents from you, and he says they are old news- 
papers and old documents, having no sort of interest in them. 
He is, therefore, getting a strong impression that you treat 
him with disrespect. This, I know, is a mistaken impres- 
sion, and you must correct it. The way, I leave to yourself. 
Robert W. Canfield says he would like to have a document 
or two from you. 

"The Locos here are in considerable trouble about Van 
Buren's letter on Texas, and the Virginia electors. They are 
growing sick of the tariff question, and consequently are 
much confounded at Van Buren's cutting them off from the 
new Texas question. Nearly half the leaders swear they 
won't stand it. Of those are Ford, T. Campbell, Ewing, 
Calhoun, and others. They don't exactly say they won't go 
for Van Buren, but they say he will not be the candidate, and 
that they are for Texas anyhow." 

The resolution passed at the Pekin convention in 1843 was 
remembered and respected by the Whigs when the time came 
to nominate Hardin's successor. Baker was selected and 
elected, Lincoln working for him as loyally as he had for 
Hardin. In this campaign — that of 1844 — Lincoln was a 
presidential elector. He went into the canvass with unusual 
ardor for Henry Clay was the candidate and Lincoln shared 
the popular idolatry of the man. His devotion was not 
merely a sentiment, however. He had been an intelligent 
student of Clay's public life, and his sympathy was all with 
the principles of the "gallant Harry of the West." Through- 
out the campaign he worked zealously, travelling all over the 
State, speaking and talking. As a rule, he was accompanied 
by a Democrat. The two went unannounced, siunply stop- 
ping at some friendly house. On their arrival the word was 
sent around, "the candidates are here," and the men of the 
neighborhood gathered to hear the discussion, which was car- 
ried on in the most informal way, the candidates frequently 
sitting tipped back against the side of the house, or perched 
on a rail, whittling during the debates. Nor was all of this 


electioneering done by argument. Many votes were still 
cast in Illinois out of personal liking, and the wily candidate 
did his best to make himself agreeable, particularly to the 
women of the household. The Hon. William L. D. Ewing, 
a Democrat who travelled with Lincoln in one campaign, 
used to tell a story of how he and Lincoln were eager to 
win the favor of one of their hostesses, whose husband was 
an important man in his neighborhood. Neither had made 
much progress until at milking-time Mr. Ewing started after 
the woman of the house as she went to the yard, took her 
pail, and insisted on milking the cow himself. He naturally 
felt that this was a master stroke. But receiving no reply 
from the hostess, to whom he had been talking loudly as he 
milked, he looked around, only to see her and Lincoln lean- 
ing comfortably over the bars, engaged in an animated dis- 
cussion. By the time he had completed his self-imposed task, 
Lincoln had captivated the hostess, and all Mr. Ewing re- 
ceived for his pains was hearty thanks for giving her a 
chance to have so pleasant a talk with Mr. Lincoln. 

Lincoln's speeches at this time were not confined to his 
own State. He made several in Indiana, being invited 
thither by prominent Whig politicians who had heard him 
speak in Illinois. The first and most important of his meet- 
ings in Indiana was at Bruceville. The Democrats, learning 
'of the proposed Whig gathering, arranged one, for the same 
evening, with Lieutenant William W. Carr of Vincennes as 
speaker. As might have been expected from the excited 
state of politics at the moment, the proximity of the two 
mass-meetings aroused party loyalty to a fighting pitch. 
"Each party was determined to break up the other's speak- 
ing," writes Miss O'Flynn, in a description of the Bruceville 
meeting prepared from interviews with those who took part 
in it. "The night was made hideous with the rattle of tin 
pans and belli and the blare of cow-horns. In spite of all 


the din and uproar of the younger element, a few grown-up 
male radicals and partisan women sang and cheered loudly 
for their favorites, who kept on with their flow of political 
information. Lieutenant Carr stood in his carriage, and ad- 
dressed the crowd around him, while a local politician acted 
as grand marshal of the night, and urged the yelling Demo- 
cratic legion to surge to the schoolhouse, where Abraham 
Lincoln was speaking, and run the Whigs from their head- 
quarters. Old men now living, who were big boys then, can- 
not remember any of the burning eloquence of either speaker. 
As they now laughingly express it : 'We were far more in- 
terested in the noise than the success of the speakers, and we 
ran backward and forward from one camp to the other.' ' 

Fortunately, the remaining speeches in Indiana were made 
under more dignified conditions. One was delivered at 
Rockport; another "from the door of a harness shop" near 
Gentryville, Lincoln's old home in Indiana; and a third at 
the "Old Carter School" in the same neighborhood. At the 
delivery of the last many of Lincoln's old neighbors were 
present, and they still tell of the cordial way in which he 
greeted them and inquired for old friends. After his speech 
he drove home with Mr. Josiah Crawford, for whom he had 
once worked as a day laborer. His interest in every familiar 
spot — a saw-pit where he had once worked — the old swim- 
ming pool, the town grocery, the mill, the blacksmith shop, 
surprised and flattered everybody. "He went round inspect- 
ing everything," declares one of his hosts. So vivid were 
the memories which this visit to Gentryville aroused, so deep 
were Lincoln's emotions, that he even attempted to express 
them in verse. A portion of the lines he wrote have been 
preserved, the only remnants of his various early attempts 
at versification. 

In this campaign of 1844 Lincoln for the second time in 
his political life met the slaverv question. The chief issue of 


that campaign was the annexation of Texas. The Whigs, 
under Clay's leadership, opposed it. To annex Texas with- 
out the consent of Mexico would compromise our national 
reputation for fair dealing, Clay argued; it would bring on 
war with Mexico, destroy the existing relations between 
North and South and compel the North to annex Canada, 
and it would tend to extend rather than restrict slavery. 

A large party of strong anti-slavery people in the North 
felt that Clay did not give enough importance to the anti- 
slavery argument and they nominated a third candidate, 
James G. Birney. This "Liberal Party" as it was called, had 
a fair representation in Illinois and Lincoln must have en- 
countered them frequently, though what arguments he used 
against them, if any, we do not know, no extracts of his 1844 
speeches being preserved. 

The next year, 1845, he found the abolition sentiment 
stronger than ever. Prominent among the leaders of the 
third party in the State were two brothers, Williamson and 
Madison Durley of Hennepin, Illinois. They were outspo- 
ken advocates of their principles, and even operated a sta- 
tion of the underground railroad. Lincoln knew the Dur- 
leys, and, when visiting Hennepin to speak, solicited their 
support. They opposed their liberty principles. When Lin- 
coln returned to Springfield he wrote Williamson Durley a 
letter which sets forth with admirable clearness his exact 
position on the slavery question at that period. It is the 
most valuable document on the question which we have up 
to this point in Lincoln's life. 

"When I saw you at home," Lincoln began, "it was agreed 
that I should write to you and your brother Madison. Until 
I then saw you I was not aware of your being what is gen- 
erally called an Abolitionist, or, as you call yourself, a Lib- 
erty man, though I well knew there were many such in your 


"I was glad to hear that you intended to attempt to bring 
about, at the next election in Putnam, a union of the Whigs 
proper and such of the Liberty men as are Whigs in principle 
on all questions save only that of slavery. So far as I can 
perceive, by such union neither party need yield anything on 
the point in difference between them. If the Whig abolition- 
ists of New York had voted with us last fall, Mr. Clay would 
now be President, Whig principles in the ascendant, and 
Texas not annexed ; whereas, by the division, all that either 
had at stake in the contest was lost. And, indeed, it was ex- 
tremely probable, beforehand, that such would be the result. 
As I always understood, the Liberty men deprecated the an- 
nexation of Texas extremely; and this being so, why they 
should refuse to cast their votes (so) as to prevent it, even 
to me seemed wonderful. What was their process of rea- 
soning, I can only judge from what a single one of them told 
me. It was this : 'We are not to do evil that good may come/ 
This general proposition is doubtless correct; but did it ap- 
ply? If by your votes you could have prevented the exten- 
sion, etc., of slavery, would it not have been good, and not 
evil, so to have used your votes, even though it involved the 
casting of them for a slave-holder ? By the fruit the tree is 
to be known. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. If 
the fruit of electing Mr. Clay would have been to prevent the 
extension of slavery, could the act of electing have been evil ? 

"But I will not argue further. I perhaps ought to say that 
individually I never was much interested in the Texas ques- 
tion. I never could see much good to come of annexation, 
inasmuch as they were already a free republican people on 
our own model. On the other hand, I never could very 
clearly see how the annexation would augment the evil of 
slavery. It always seemed to me that slaves would be taken 
there in about equal numbers, with or without annexation. 
And if more were taken because of annexation, still there 
would be just so many the fewer left where they were taken 
from. It is possibly true, to some extent, that, with annexa- 
tion, some slaves may be sent to Texas and continued in 
slavery that otherwise might have been liberated. To what- 
ever extent this may be true, I think annexation an evil. I 
hold it to be a paramount duty of us in the free States, due 
to the Union of the States, and perhaps to liberty itself 


(paradox though it may seem) , to let the slavery of the othet 
States alone ; while, on the other hand, I hold it to be equally 
clear that we should never knowingly lend ourselves, directly 
or indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural 
death — to find new places for it to live in, when it can no 
longer exist in the old. Of course I am not now consider- 
ing what would be our duty in cases of insurrection among 
the slaves. To recur to the Texas question, I understand the 
Liberty men to have viewed annexation as a much greater 
evil than ever I did; and I would like to convince you, if I 
could, that they could have prevented it, without violation of 
principle, if they had chosen." 

At the time that Lincoln wrote the above letter to the 
Durley brothers he was working for a nomination to Con- 
gress. In 1843 ne na d helped elect his friend Hardin. He 
had secured the nomination for Baker in 1844 and had 
worked faithfully to elect him. Now he felt that his duty to 
his friends was discharged and that he was free to try for 
himself. He undoubtedly hoped that neither of his friends 
would contest the nomination. Baker did not but late in 
1845 ft became evident that Hardin might. Lincoln was 
worried over the prospect. "The paper at Pekin has nomi- 
nated Hardin for governor," he wrote his friend B. F. James 
in November, "and, commenting on this, the Alton papers 
indirectly nominated him for Congress. It would give Har- 
din a great start, and perhaps use me up, if the Whig papers 
of the district should nominate him for Congress. If your 
feelings toward me are the same as when you saw me (which 
I have no reason to doubt), I wish you would let nothing 
appear in your paper which may operate against me. You 
understand. Matters stand just as they did when I saw you. 
Baker is certainly off the track, and I fear Hardin intends 
to be on it." 

Hardin certainly was free to run for Congress if he 
wanted to. He had voluntarily declined the nomination in 


1844, because of the events of the Pekin convention, but he 
had made no promise to do so in 1846. Many of the Whigs 
of the district had not expected him to be a candidate, how- 
ever, arguing that Lincoln, because of his relation to the 
party, should be given his turn. "We do not entertain a 
doubt," wrote the editor of the "Sangamon Journal," in 
February, 1846, "that if we could reverse the positions of 
the two men, a very large portion of those who now support 
Mr. Lincoln most warmly would support General Hardin 
quite as well. " 

As time went on and Lincoln found in all probability that 
Hardin would enter the race, it made him anxious and a 
little melancholy. In writing to his friend Dr. Robert Boal of 
Lacon, Illinois, on January 7, 1846, he said: 

"Since I saw you last fall, I have often thought of writing 
you, as it was then understood I would ; but, on reflection, I 
have always found that I had nothing new to tell you. All 
has happened as I then told you I expected it would — Baker's 
declining, Hardin's taking the track, and so on. 

"If Hardin and I stood precisely equal — that is, if neither 
of us had been to Congress, or if we both had — it would not 
only accord with what I have always done, for the sake of 
peace, to give way to him ; and I expect I should do it. That 
I can voluntarily postpone my pretensions, when they are no 
more than equal to those to which they are postponed, you 
have yourself seen. But to yield to Hardin under present 
circumstances seems to me as nothing else than yielding to 
one who would gladly sacrifice me altogether. This I would 
rather not submit to. That Hardin is talented, energetic, 
unusually generous and magnanimous, I have, before this, 
affirmed to you, and do not now deny. You know that my 
only argument is that 'turn about is fair play.' This he, prac- 
tically at least, denies. 

"If it would not be taxing you too much, I wish you would 
write me, telling the aspect of things in your county, or 
rather your district ; and also send the names of some of your 
Whig neighbors to whom I might* with propriety, write, 


Unless I can get some one to do this, Hardin, with his olfj 
franking list, will have the advantage of me. My reliance 
for a fair shake (and I want nothing more) in your county 
is chiefly on you, because of your position and standing, and 
because I am acquainted with so few others. Let me hear 
from you soon." 

Lincoln followed the vibrations of feeling in the various 
counties with extreme nicety, studying every individual 
whose loyalty he suspected or whose vote was not yet 
pledged. "Nathan Dresser is here," he wrote to his friend 
Bennett, on January 15, 1846, "and speaks as though the 
contest between Hardin and me is to be doubtful in Menard 
county. I know he is candid, and this alarms me some. I 
asked him to tell me the names of the men that were going 
strong for Hardin; he said Morris was about as strong as 
any. Now tell me, is Morris going it openly ? You remem- 
ber you wrote me that he would be neutral. Nathan also 
said that some man (who he could not remember) had said 
lately that Menard county was again to decide the contest, 
and that made the contest very doubtful. Do you know who 
that was ? 

"Don't fail me to write me instantly on receiving, telling 
me all — particularly the names of those who are going strong 
against me." 

In January, General Hardin suggested that since he and 
Lincoln were the only persons mentioned as candidates, there 
be no convention, but the selection be left to the Whig voters 
of the district. Lincoln refused. 

"It seems to me," he wrote Hardin, "that on reflection you 
will see the fact of your having been in Congress has, in 
various ways, so spread your name in the district as to give 
you a decided advantage in such a stipulation. I appreciate 
your desire to keep down excitement ; and I promise you to 
'keep coor under all circumstances. ... I have always 
been in the habit of acceding to almost any proposal th&i a 


friend would make, and I am truly sorry that I cannot in 
this. I perhaps ought to mention that some friends at dif- 
ferent places are endeavoring to secure the honor of the sit- 
ting of the convention at their towns respectively, and I fear 
that they would not feel much complimented if we shall 
make a bargain that it should sit nowhere." 

After General Hardin received this refusal he withdrew 
from the contest, in a manly and generous letter which was 
warmly approved by the Whigs of the district. Both men 
were so much loved that a break between them would have 
been a disastrous thing for the party. "We are truly glad 
that a contest which in its nature was calculated to weaken 
the ties of friendship has terminated amicably," said the 
Sangamon " Journal." 

The charge that Hardin, Baker, and Lincoln tried to 
ruin one another in this contest for Congress has often 
been denied by their associates, and never more em- 
phatically than by Judge Gillespie, an influential politician of 
the State. "Hardin," Judge Gillespie says, "was one of the 
most unflinching and unfaltering Whigs that ever drew the 
breath of life. He was a mirror of chivalry, and so was 
Baker. Lincoln had boundless respect for, and confidence in, 
them both. He knew they would sacrifice themselves rather 
than do an act that could savor in the slightest degree of 
meanness or dishonor. These men, Lincoln, Hardin and 
Baker, were bosom friends, to my certain knowledge. . . 
Lincoln felt that they could be actuated by nothing but the 
most honorable sentiments towards him. For although they 
were rivals, they were all three men of the most punctilious 
honor, and devoted friends. I knew them intimately, and 
can say confidently that there never was a particle of envy on 
the part of one towards the other. The rivalry between them 
was of the most honorable and friendly character, and when 
Hardin and Baker were killed (Hardin in Mexico, and Baker 


at Ball's Bluff) Lincoln felt that in the death of each he had 
lost a dear and true friend." 

After Hardin's withdrawal, Lincoln went about in his 
characteristic way trying to soothe his and Hardin's friends. 
"Previous to General Hardin's withdrawal," he wrote one of 
his correspondents, "some of his friends and some of mine 
had become a little warm ; and I felt . . . that for them 
now to meet face to face and converse together was the best 
Wc v y to efface any remnant of unpleasant feeling, if any such 
existed. I did not suppose that General Hardin's friends 
were in any greater need of having their feelings corrected 
than mine were." 

In May, Lincoln was nominated. His Democratic oppo- 
nent was Peter Cartwright, the famous Methodist exhorter, 
the most famous itinerant preacher of the pioneer era. Cart- 
wright had moved from Kentucky to Illinois when still a 
young man to get into a free State, and had settled in the 
Sangamon valley, near Springfield. For the next forty years 
he travelled over the State, most of the time on horseback, 
preaching the gospel in his unique and rugged fashion. His 
district was at first so large (extending from Kaskaskia to 
Galena) that he was unable to traverse the whole of it in the 
same year. He was elected to the legislature in 1828 and 
again in 1832; Lincoln, in the latter year, being an opposing 
candidate. In 1840 when he was the Democratic nominee 
for Congress against Lincoln he was badly beaten. Cart- 
wright now made an energetic canvass, his chief weapon 
against Lincoln being the old charges of atheism and aris- 
tocracy; but they failed of effect, and in August, Lincoln 
was elected. 

The contest over, sudden and characteristic disillusion 
seized him. " Being elected to Congress, though I am grate- 
ful to our friends for having done it, has not pleased me as 
much as I expected," he wrote Speed. 



In November, 1847, Lincoln started for Washington. The 
city in 1848 was little more than the outline of the Washing- 
ton of 1899. The capitol was without the present wings, 
dome, or western terrace. The White House, the City Hall, 
the Treasury, the Patent Office, and the Post-Office were the 
only public buildings standing then which have not been re- 
built or materially changed. The streets were unpaved, and 
their dust in summer and mud in winter are celebrated in 
every record of the period. The parks and circles were still 
unplanted. Near the White House were a few fine old homes, 
and Capitol Hill was partly built over. Although there were 
deplorable wastes between these two points, the majority of 
the people lived in the southeastern part of the city, on or 
near Pennsylvania avenue. The winter that Lincoln was in 
Washington, Daniel Webster lived on Louisiana avenue, 
near Sixth street; Speaker Winthrop and Thomas H. Ben- 
ton on C street, near Third; John Quincy Adams and James 
Buchanan, the latter then Secretary of State, on F street, be- 
tween Thirteenth and Fourteenth. Many of the senators and 
congressmen were in hotels, the leading ones of which were 
Willard's, Coleman's, Gadsby's, Brown's, Young's, Fuller's, 
and the United States. Stephen A. Douglas, who was in 
Washington for his first term as senator, lived at Willard's. 
So inadequate were the hotel accommodations during the ses- 
sions that visitors to the town were frequently obliged to ac- 
cept most uncomfortable makeshifts for beds. Seward, vis- 



iting the city in 1847, tells °f sleeping on "a cot between two 
beds occupied by strangers." 

The larger number of members lived in "messes," a species 
of boarding-club, over which the owner of the house occupied 
usually presided. The "National Intelligencer" of the day is 
sprinkled with announcements of persons "prepared to ac- 
commodate a mess of members." Lincoln went to live in one 
of the best known of these clubs, Mrs. Spriggs's, in "Duff 
Green's Row," on Capitol Hill. This famous row has now 
entirely disappeared, the ground on which it stood being oc- 
cupied by the Congressional Library. 

At Mrs. Spriggs's, Lincoln had as mess-mates several 
congressmen : A. R. Mcllvaine, James Pollock, John Strohm, 
and John Blanchard, all of Pennsylvania, Patrick Tompkins 
of Mississippi, Joshua R. Giddings of Ohio, and Elisha Em- 
bree of Indiana. Among his neighbors in messes on Capitol 
Hill were Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, Alexander H. 
Stephens of Georgia, and Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. 
One of the members of the mess at Mrs. Spriggs's in the win- 
ter of 1 847- 1 848 was Dr. S. C. Busey of Washington, D. C. 

" I soon learned to know and admire Lincoln," s&ys Dr. 
Busey in his " Personal Reminiscences and Recollections," 
" for his simple and unostentatious manners, kind-hearted- 
ness, and amusing jokes, anecdotes, and witticisms. When 
about to tell an anecdote during a meal he would lay down 
his knife and fork, place his elbows upon the table, rest his 
face between his hands, and begin with the words, ' That re- 
minds me,' and proceed. Everybody prepared for the ex- 
plosion sure to follow. I recall with vivid pleasure the scene 
of merriment at the dinner after his first speech in the House 
of Representatives; occasioned by the descriptions, by him- 
self and others of the congressional mess, of the uproar in 
the House during its delivery. 

"Congressman Lincoln was always neatly but very plainly 
dressed, very simple and approachable in manner, and unpre- 


From the original daguerreotype, owned by Mr. Lincoln's son, the Hon. Kobert T. Lin« 
coin, through whose courtesy it was first published in "McClure's Magazine" for Novem- 
ber, 1895. It was afterwards republished in the McClure "Life of Lincoln," and in the 
* s Century Magazine " for February, 1897 


tentious. He attended to his business, going promptly to the 
House and remaining till the session adjourned, and ap- 
peared to be familiar with the progress of legislation." 

The town offered then little in the way of amusement. The 
Adelphi theater was opened that winter for the first time, and 
presented a variety of mediocre plays. At the Olympia were 
"lively and beautiful exhibitions of model artists." Herz and 
Sivori, the pianists, then touring in the United States, played 
several times in the season ; and there was a Chinese museum. 
Add the exhibitions of Brown's paintings of the heroes of 
Palo Alto, Resaca, Monterey, and Buena Vista, and of Pow- 
ers's "Greek Slave," the performances of Dr. Valentine, "De- 
lineator of Eccentricities," a few lectures, and numerous 
church socials, and you have about all there was in the way 
of public entertainments in Washington in 1848. But of din- 
ners, receptions, and official gala affairs there were many. 
Lincoln's name appears frequently in the "National Intelli- 
gencer" on committees to offer dinners to this or that great 
man. In the spring of 1849 ne was one °f tne managers of 
the inaugural ball given to Taylor. His friend Washburn re- 
calls an amusing incident of Lincoln at this ball. "A small 
number of mutual friends," says Mr. Washburn, "including 
Mr. Lincoln, made up a party to attend the inauguration ball 
together. It was by far the most brilliant inauguration ball 
ever given. Of course Mr. Lincoln had never seen anything 
of the kind before. One of the most modest and unpretend- 
ing persons present, he could not have dreamed that like hon- 
ors were to come to him, almost within a little more than a 
decade. He was greatly interested in all that was to be seen, 
and we did not take our departure until three or four o'clock 
in the morning. When we went to the cloak and hat room, 
Mr. Lincoln had no trouble in finding his short cloak, which 
little more than covered his shoulders, but, after a long 
search was unable to find his hat. After an hour he gave up 


all idea of finding it. Taking his cloak on his arm, he walked 
out into Judiciary square, deliberately adjusting it on his 
shoulders, and started off bare-headed for his lodgings. It 
would be hard to forget the sight of that tall and slim man, 
with his short cloak thrown over his shoulders, starting for 
his long walk home on Capitol Hill, at four o'clock in the 
morning, without any hat on." 

Another reminiscence of his homely and independent ways 
comes from the librarian of the Supreme Court at that pe- 
riod, through Lincoln's friend, Washburn. Mr. Lincoln, the 
story goes, came to the library one day for the purpose of 
procuring some law books which he wanted to take to his 
room for examination. Getting together all the books he 
wanted, he placed them in a pile on a table. Taking a large 
bandana handkerchief from his pocket, he tied them up, and 
putting a stick which he had brought with him through a 
knot he had made in the handkerchief, he shouldered the 
package and marched off from the library to his room. In 
a few days he returned the books in the same way. 

Lincoln's simple, sincere friendliness and his quaint humor 
soon won him a sure, if quiet, social position in Washington. 
He was frequently invited to Mr. Webster's Saturday break- 
fasts, where his stories were highly relished for their origi- 
nality and drollery. Dr. Busey recalls his popularity at one 
of the leading places of amusement on Capitol Hill. 

"Congressman Lincoln was very fond of bowling," he 
says, "and would frequently join others of the mess, or meet 
other members in a match game, at the alley of James Cas- 
paris, which was near the boarding-house. He was a very 
awkward bowler, but played the game with great zest and 
spirit, solely for exercise and amusement, and greatly to the 
enjoyment and entertainment of the other players and by- 
standers by his criticisms and funny illustrations. He ac- 
cepted success and defeat with like good nature and humor, 
and left the alley at the conclusion of the eame without a 


sorrow or disappointment. When it was known that he was 
in the alley, there would assemble numbers of people to wit- 
ness the fun which was anticipated by those who knew of his 
fund of anecdotes and jokes. When in the alley, surrounded 
by a crowd of eager listeners, he indulged with great free- 
dom in the sport of narrative, some of which were very 
broad. His witticisms seemed for the most part to be im- 
promptu, but he always told the anecdotes and jokes as if he 
wished to convey the impression that he had heard them 
from some one ; but they appeared very many times as if they 
had been made for the immediate occasion.' ' 

Another place where he became at home and wa? much 
appreciated was in the post-office at the Capitol. 

"During the Christmas holidays/' says Ben. Perley Poore, 
" Mr. Lincoln found his way into the small room used as the 
post-office of the House, where a few jovial raconteurs used 
to meet almost every morning, after the mail had been dis- 
tributed into the members' boxes, to exchange such new 
stories as any of them might have acquired since they had 
last met. After modestly standing at the door for several 
days, Mr. Lincoln was reminded of a story, and by New 
Year's he was recognized as the champion story-teller of the 
Capitol. His favorite seat was at the left of the open fire- 
place, tilted back in his chair, with his long legs reaching over 
to the chimney jamb. He never told a story twice, but ap- 
peared to have an endless repertoire of them always ready, 
like the successive charges in a magazine gun, and always 
pertinently adapted to some passing event. It was refresh- 
ing to us correspondents, compelled as we were to listen to 
so much that was prosy and tedious, to hear this bright speci- 
men of western genius tell his inimitable stories, especially 
his reminiscences of the Black Hawk war." 

But Lincoln had gone to Washington for work, and he at 
once interested himself in the Whig organization formed to 
elect the officers of the House. There was only a small Whig 
majority, and it took skill and energy to keep the offices in 


the party. Lincoln's share in achieving this result was gen- 
erally recognized. As late as i860, twelve years after the 
struggle, Robert C. Winthrop of Massachusetts, who was 
elected speaker, said in a speech in Boston wherein he dis- 
cussed Lincoln's nomination to the Presidency: "You will 
be sure that I remember him with interest, if I may be al- 
lowed to remind you that he helped to make me the speaker 
of the Thirtieth Congress, when the vote was a very close 
and strongly contested vote." 

A week after Congress organized, Lincoln wrote to 
Springfield: "As you are all so anxious for me to distin- 
guish myself, I have concluded to do so before long;" and he 
did it — but not exactly as his Springfield friends wished. The 
United States was then at war with Mexico, a war that the 
Whigs abhorred. Lincoln had used his influence against it; 
but, hostilities declared, he had publicly affirmed that every 
loyal man must stand by the army. Many of his friends, 
Hardin, Baker, and Shields, among others, were at that mo- 
ment in Mexico. Lincoln had gone to Washington intend' 
ing to say nothing in opposition to the war. But the admin- 
istration wished to secure from the Whigs not only votes of 
supplies and men, but a resolution declaring that the war wa* 
just and right. Lincoln, with others of his party in Congress, 
refused his sanction and voted for a resolution offered by Mr. 
Ashburn, which declared that the war had been "unnecessa- 
rily and unconstitutionally" begun. On December 22d he 
made his debut in the House by the famous " Spot Resolu- 
tions," a series of searching questions so clearly put, so 
strong historically and logically, that they drove the admin- 
istration from the "spot" where the war began, and showed 
that it had been the aggressor in the conquest. The resolu- 
tion ran : — 

"Whereas, The President of the United States, in his 
message of Mav n, 1846, has declared that 'the Mexican 


Government not only refused to receive him (the envoy of 
the United States), or to listen to his propositions, but, after 
a long-continued series of menaces, has at last invaded our 
territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our 
own soil/ 

"And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that ' we 
had ample cause of war against Mexico long before the 
breaking out of hostilities ; but even then we forbore to take 
redress into our own hands until Mexico herself became the 
aggressor, by invading our soil in hostile array, and shedding 
the blood of our citizens.' 

" And yet again, in his message of December 7, 1847, that 
' the Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of 
adjustment which he (our minister of peace) was authorized 
to propose, and finally, under wholly unjustifiable pretexts, 
involved the two countries in war, by invading the territory 
of the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding 
the blood of our citizens on our own soil/ 

"And whereas. This House is desirous to obtain a full 
knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the 
particular spot on which the blood of our citizens was so shed 
was or was not at that time our own soil : therefore, 

"Resolved, by the House of Representatives, that the 
President of the United States be respectfully requested to 
inform this House — 

" First. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citi- 
zens was shed, as in his message declared, was or was not 
within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 18 19 
until the Mexican revolution. 

" Second. Whether that spot is or is not within the terri- 
tory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary 
Government of Mexico. 

" Third. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement 
of people, which settlement has existed ever since long be- 
fore the Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled be- 
fore the approach of the United States army. 

" Fourth. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated 
from any and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio 
Grande on the south and west, and by wide uninhabited 
regions on the north and east 


" Fifth. Whether the people of that settlement, or a ma- 
jority of them, or any of them, have ever submitted them- 
selves to the government or laws of Texas or of the United 
States, by consent or by compulsion, either by accepting 
office, or voting at elections, or paying tax, or serving on 
juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other 

" Sixth. Whether the people of that settlement did or did 
not flee from the approach of the United States army, leav- 
ing unprotected their homes and their growing crops, before 
the blood was shed, as in the message stated ; and whether the 
first blood, so shed, was or was not shed within the inclosure 
of one of the people who had thus fled from it. 

" Seventh. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as 
in his message declared, were or were not, at that time, armed 
officers and soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military 
order of the President, through the Secretary of War. 

" Eighth. Whether the military force of the United States 
was or was not so sent into that settlement after General 
Taylor had more than once intimated to the War Depart- 
ment that, in his opinion, no such movement was necessary to 
the defence or protection of Texas." 

In January Lincoln followed up these resolutions with a 
speech in support of his position. His action was much criti- 
cised in Illinois, where the sound of the drum and the intoxi- 
cation of victory had completely turned attention from the 
moral side of the question, and Lincoln found himself obliged 
to defend his position with even Mr. Herndon, his law part- 
ner, who, with many others, objected to Lincoln's voting for 
the Ashburn resolution. 

"That vote," wrote Lincoln in answer to Mr. Herndon's 
letter, "affirms that the war was unnecessarily and unconsti- 
tutionally commenced by the President ; and I will stake my 
life that if you had been in my place you would have voted 
just as I did. Would you have voted what you felt and knew 
to be a lie? I know you would not. Would you have gone 
out of the House — skulked the vote? I expect not. If you 
had skulked one vote, you would have had to skulk many 


more before the end of the session. Richardson's resolutions, 
introduced before I made any move or gave any vote upon 
the subject, make the direct question of the justice of the 
war ; so that no man can be silent if he would. You are com- 
pelled to speak ; and your only alternative is to tell the truth 
Dr a lie. I cannot doubt which you would do. 

" This vote has nothing to do in determining my votes on 
the questions of supplies. I have always intended, and still 
intend, to vote supplies ; perhaps not in the precise form rec- 
ommended by the President, but in a better form for all pur- 
poses, except Locofoco party purposes.'' * * * 

This determination to keep the wrong of the Mexican war 
oefore the people even while voting supplies for it Lincoln 
held to steadily. In May a pamphlet was sent him in which 
the author claimed that "in view of all the facts" the govern- 
ment of the United States had committed no aggression in 

"Not in view of all the facts," Lincoln wrote him. "There 
are facts which you have kept out of view. It is a fact that 
the United States army in marching to the Rio Grande 
marched into a peaceful Mexican settlement, and frightened 
the inhabitants away from their homes and their growing 
crops. It is a fact that Fort Brown, opposite Matamoras, was 
built by that army within a Mexican cotton-field, on which at 
the time the army reached it a young cotton crop was grow- 
ing, and which crop was wholly destroyed and the field itself 
greatly and permanently injured by ditches, embankments, 
and the like. It is a fact that when the Mexicans captured 
Captain Thornton and his command, they found and cap- 
tured them within another Mexican field. 

" Now I wish to bring these facts to your notice, and to as- 
certain what is the result of your reflections upon them. If 
you deny that they are facts, I think I can furnish proofs 
which shall convince you that you are mistaken. If you ad- 
mit that they are facts, then I shall be obliged for a reference 
to any law of language, law of States, law of nations, law of 
morals, law of religions, any law, human or divine, in which 
an authority can be found for saying those facts constitute 
s No aggression/ 


"Possibly you consider those acts too small for notice. 
Would you venture to so consider them had they been com- 
mitted by any nation on earth against the humblest of our 
people? I know you would not. Then I ask, is the precept 
1 Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye 
even so to them ' obsolete? of no force? of no application? " 

The routine work assigned Lincoln in the Thirtieth Con- 
gress was on the committee on the post-office and post roads. 
Several reports were made by him from this committee. 
These reports, with a speech on internal improvements, cover 
his published work in the House up to July. 

As the Whigs were to hold their national convention for 
nominating a candidate for the presidency in June, Lincoln 
gave considerable time during the spring to electioneering. 
In his judgment the Whigs could elect nobody but General 
Taylor and he urged his friends in Illinois to give up Henry 
Clay, to whom many of them still clung. "Mr. Clay's chance 
for an election," he wrote, "is just no chance at all." 

Lincoln went to the convention, which was held in Phila- 
delphia, and as he prophesied, "Old Rough and Ready" was 
nominated. He went back to Washington full of enthusiasm. 
"In my opinion we shall have a most overwhelming, glorious 
triumph," he wrote a friend. "One unmistakable sign is that 
all the odds and ends are with us — Barnburners, Native 
Americans, Tyler men, disappointed office-seekers, Locofo- 
cos, and the Lord knows what. This is important, if in noth- 
ing else, in showing which way the wind blows." 

In connection with Alexander H. Stephens, of whom he 
had become a warm friend, Toombs, and Preston, Lincoln 
formed the first Congressional Taylor club, known as the 
"Young Indians." Campaigning had already begun on the 
floor of Congress, and the members were daily making 
speeches for the various candidates. On July 27th Lincoln 
made a speech for Taylor. It was a boisterous election 


speech, full of merciless caricaturing, and delivered with in- 
imitable drollery. It kept the House in an uproar, and was 
reported the country over by the Whig press. The "Balti- 
more American," in giving a synopsis of it, called it the 
"crack speech of the day," and said of Lincoln: "He is a 
very able, acute, uncouth, honest, upright man, and a tremen- 
dous wag, withal. . . . Mr. Lincoln's manner was so 
good-natured, and his style so peculiar, that he kept the 
House in a continuous roar of merriment for the last half 
hour of his speech. He would commence a point in his speech 
far up one of the aisles, and keep on talking, gesticulating, 
and walking until he would find himself, at the end of a 
paragraph, down in the centre of the area in front of the 
clerk's desk. He would then go back and take another head, 
and work down again. And so on, through his capital 

This speech, as well as the respect Lincoln's work in the 
House had inspired among the leaders of the party, brought 
him an invitation to deliver several campaign speeches in 
New England at the close of Congress, and he went there 
early in September. There was in New England, at that date, 
much strong anti-slavery feeling. The Whigs claimed to be 
"Free Soilers" as well as the party which appropriated that 
name, and Lincoln, in the first speech he made, defined care- 
fully his position on the slavery question. This was at Wor- 
cester, Massachusetts, on September 12th. The Whig State 
convention had met to nominate a candidate for governor, 
and the most eminent Whigs of Massachusetts were present. 
Curiously enough the meeting was presided over by ex-Gov- 
ernor Levi Lincoln, a descendant, like Abraham Lincoln, 
from the original Samuel of Hingham. There were many 
brilliant speeches made ; but if we are to trust the reports of 
the day, Lincoln's was the one which by its logic, its clear- 
ness, and its humor, did most for the Whig cause. "Gentle- 


men inform me," says one Boston reporter, who came too 
late for the exercises, "that it was one of the best speeches 
ever heard in Worcester, and that several Whigs who had 
gone off on the "free soil" fizzle have come back again to the 
Whig ranks." 

A report of the speech was printed in the Boston "Adver- 
tiser." According to this report Lincoln spent the first part 
of his hour in defending General Taylor against the charge 
of having no principles and in proving him a good Whig. 

"Mr. Lincoln then passed," says the Advertiser, "to the 
subject of slavery in the States, saying that the people of Illi- 
nois agreed entirely with the people of Massachusetts on this 
subject, except, perhaps, that they did not keep so constantly 
thinking about it. All agreed that slavery was an evil, but 
that we were not responsible for it, and cannot affect it in 
States of this Union where we do not live. But the question 
of the extension of slavery to new territories of this country 
is a part of our responsibility and care, and is under our con- 
trol. In opposition to this Mr. Lincoln believed that the self- 
named 'Free Soil' party was far behind the Whigs. Both 
parties opposed the extension. As he understood it, the new 
party had no principle except this opposition. If their plat- 
form held any other, it was in such a general way that it 
was like the pair of pantaloons the Yankee peddler offered 
for sale, 'large enough for any man, small enough for any 
boy/ They therefore had taken a position calculated to break 
down their single important declared object. They were 
working for the election of either General Cass or General 
Taylor. The speaker then went on to show, clearly and elo- 
quently, the danger of extension of slavery likely to result 
from the election of General Cass. To unite with those who 
annexed the new territory, to prevent the extension of 
slavery in that territory, seemed to him to be in the highest 
degree absurd and ridiculous. Suppose these gentlemen suc- 
ceed in electing Mr. Van Buren, they had no rpecific means 
to prevent the extension of slavery to New Mexico and Cali- 
fornia; and General Taylor, he confidently believed, would 
not encourage it, and would not prohibit its restriction. But 


if General Cass was elected, he felt certain that the plans of 
farther extension of territory would be encouraged, and 
those of the extension of slavery would meet no check. The 
' Free Soil ' men, in claiming that name, indirectly attempt a 
deception, by implying that Whigs were not Free Soil men. 
In declaring that they would 'do their duty and leave the con- 
sequences to God,' they merely gave an excuse for taking a 
course they were not able to maintain by a fair and full argu- 
ment. To make this declaration did not show what their duty 
was. If it did, we should have no use for judgment; we 
might as well be made without intellect; and when divine 
or human law does not clearly point out what is our duty, we 
have no means of finding out what it is but using our most 
intelligent judgment of the consequences. If there were di- 
vine law or human law for voting for Martin Van Buren, or 
if a fair examination of the consequences and first reasoning 
would show that voting for him would bring about the ends 
they pretended to wish, then he would give up the argument. 
But since there was no fixed law on the subject, and since 
the whole probable result of their action would be an assist- 
ance in electing General Cass, he must say that they were be- 
hind the Whigs in their advocacy of the freedom of the soil. 

"Mr. Lincoln proceeded to rally the Buffalo convention for 
forbearing to say anything — after all the previous declara- 
tions of those members who were formerly Whigs — on the 
subject of the Mexican War because the Van Burens had 
been known to have supported it. He declared that of all 
the parties asking the confidence of the country, this new one 
had less of principle than any other. 

"He wondered whether it was still the opinion of these 
Free Soil gentlemen, as declared in the ' whereas ' at Buffalo, 
that the Whig and Democratic parties were both entirely dis- 
solved and absorbed into their own body. Had the Vermont 
election given them any light ? They had calculated on mak- 
ing as great an impression in that State as in any part of the 
Union, and there their attempts had been wholly ineffectual. 
Their failure there was a greater success than they would 
find in any other part of the Union. 

"At the close of this truly masterly and convincing 
speech," the "Advertiser" goes on, "the audience gave three 


enthusiastic cheers for Illinois, and three more for the ela 
quent Whig member from that State." 

After the speech at Worcester, Lincoln spoke at Lowell, 
Dedham, Roxbury, Chelsea and Cambridge, and on Septem- 
ber 22d, in Tremont Temple, Boston, following a splendid 
oration by Governor Seward. His speech on this occasion 
was not reported, though the Boston papers united in call- 
ing it "powerful and convincing." His success at Worcester 
and Boston was such that invitations came from all over 
New England asking him to speak. 

But Lincoln won something in New England of vastly 
deeper importance than a reputation for making popular cam- 
paign speeches. Here for the first time he caught a glimpse 
of the utter impossibility of ever reconciling the northern 
conviction that slavery was evil and unendurable, and the 
southern claim that it was divine and necessary ; and he be- 
gan here to realize that something must be done. 

The first impression of slavery which Abraham Lincoln 
received was in his childhood in Kentucky. His father and 
mother belonged to a small company of western abolition- 
ists, who at the beginning of the century boldly denounced 
the institution as an iniquity. So great an evil did Thomas 
and Nancy Lincoln hold slavery that to escape it they were 
willing to leave their Kentucky home and move to a free 
State. Thus their boy's first notion of the institution was 
that it was something to flee from, a thing so dreadful that it 
was one's duty to go to pain and hardship to escape it. 

In his new home in Indiana he heard the debate on slavery 
go on. The State he had moved into was in a territory made 
free forever by the ordinance of 1787, but there were still 
slaves and believers in slavery within its boundaries and it 
took many years to eradicate them. Close to his Indiana 
home lay Illinois and here the same struggle went on 
through all his bovhood. The lad was too thoughtful not 


to reflect on what he heard and read of the differences of 
opinions on slavery. By the time the Statutes of Indiana 
fell into his hands — some time before he was eighteen years 
old — he had gathered a large amount of practical informa- 
tion about the question which he was able then to weigh in 
the light of the great principles of the Constitution, the 
ordinance of 1787, and the laws of Indiana, which he had 
begun to study with passionate earnestness. 

When he left Indiana for Illinois he continued to be 
thrown up against slavery. In his trip in 1831 to New Or- 
leans he saw its most terrible features. As a young legislator 
he saw the citizens of his town, and his fellows in the legis- 
lature ready to condemn as " dangerous agitators,'' those 
who dared call slavery an evil, saw them secretly sympa- 
thize with outlawry like the Alton riot and the murder of 
Elijah Lovejoy. So keenly did he feel the danger of pass- 
ing resolutions against abolitionists which tacitly implied 
that slavery was as the South was beginning to claim, a di- 
vine institution that in 1837, he was one of the only two 
members of the Illinois assembly who were willing to pub- 
licly declare "that the institution of slavery is founded on 
both injustice and bad policy." 

From time to time as he travelled on the Mississippi and 
Ohio he saw the workings of slavery. In 1841 coming home 
from a visit to Louisville, Ky., he was in the same boat with 
a number of negroes, the sight so impressed him that he de- 
scribed it to a friend : 

" A gentleman had purchased twelve negroes in different 
parts of Kentucky, and was taking them to a farm in the 
South. They were chained six and six together. A small 
iron clevis was around the left wrist of each, and this fast- 
ened to the main chain by a shorter one, at a convenient dis- 
tance from the others, so that the negroes were strung to- 
gether precisely like so many fish upon a trout-line. In this 


condition they were being separated forever from the scenes 
of their childhood, their friends, their fathers and mothers, 
and brothers and sisters, and many of them from their wives 
and children, and going into perpetual slavery, where the 
lash of the master is proverbially more ruthless and unre- 
lenting than any other where ; and yet amid all these distress- 
ing circumstances, as we would think them, they were the 
most cheerful and apparently happy creatures on board. One 
whose offense for which he had been sold was an over-fond- 
ness for his wife, played the fiddle almost continually, and 
the others danced, sang, cracked jokes, and played various 
games with cards from day to day. How true it is that 'God 
tempers the wind to the shorn lamb/ or in other words, that 
he renders the worst of human conditions tolerable, while he 
permits the best to be nothing better than tolerable. ,, 

Runaway slaves, underground railway stations, masters 
and men tracking negroes, the occasional capture of a man or 
woman to be taken back to the South, trials of fugitives — all 
the features common in those years particularly in the States 
bordering on bond territory Lincoln saw. In 1847 ne was 
even engaged to defend a slave-owner's claim, a case he lost, 
the negro being allowed to go free. 

It was not until 1844-45, however, that the matter 
became an important element in his political life. Hereto- 
fore it had been a moral question only, now, however, 
the annexation of Texas made it a political one. It became 
necessary that every politician and voter decide whether the 
new territory should be bond or free. The abolitionists or 
Liberty party grew rapidly in Illinois. Lincoln found himself 
obliged not only to meet Democratic arguments, but the abo- 
lition theories and convictions. When in 1847 ne went to 
Congress it was already evident that the Mexican war would 
be settled by the acquisition of large new territory. What 
was to be done with it ? The North had tried to forestall the 
South by bringing in a provision that whatever territory was 
acquired should be free forever. This Wilmot proviso as it 


was called from the name of the originator, went through as 
many forms as Proteus, though its intent was always the 
same. From first to last Lincoln voted for it. "I may ven- 
ture to say that I voted for it at least forty times during the 
short time I was there," he said in after years. Although 
he voted so persistently he did little or no debating on the 
question in the House and in the hot debates from which he 
could not escape, he acted as a peace-maker. 

At Mrs. Spriggs's mess, where he boarded in Washington, 
the Wilmot proviso was the topic of frequent conversation 
and the occasion of very many angry controversies. Dr. Bu- 
sey, who was a fellow boarder, says of Lincoln's part in these 
discussions, that though he may have been as radical as any 
in the household, he was so discreet in giving expression to 
his convictions on the slavery question as to avoid giving of- 
fence to anybody, and was so conciliatory as to create the im- 
pression, even among the pro-slavery advocates, that he did 
not wish to introduce or discuss subjects that would provoke 
a controversy. 

"When such conversation would threaten angry or even 
unpleasant contention he would interrupt it by interposing 
some anecdote, thus diverting it into a hearty and general 
laugh, and so completely disarrange the tenor of the discus- 
sion that the parties engaged would either separate in good 
humor or continue conversation free from discord. This 
amicable disposition made him very popular with the house- 

But when in 1848 Lincoln went to New England he expe- 
rienced for the first time the full meaning of the "free soil" 
sentiment as the new abolition sentiment was called. Massa- 
chusetts was quivering at that moment under the impas- 
sioned protests of the great abolitionists. Sumner was just 
deciding to abandon literature to devote his life to the cause 
of freedom and was speaking wherever he had the chance 


and often in scenes which were riots. "Ah me such an as- 
sembly," wrote Longfellow in his Journal after one of these 
speeches of Sumner. "It was like one of Beethoven's sym- 
phonies played in a saw-mill." Whittier was laboring at 
Amesbury by letters of counsel and encouragement to 
friends, by his pure, high-souled poems of protest and prom- 
ise and by his editorials to the "National Era," which he and 
his friends had just started in Washington. Lowell was pub- 
lishing the last of the Biglow Papers and preparing the whole 
for the book form. He was writing, too, some of his noblest 
prose. Emerson, Palfrey, Hoar, Adams, Phillips, Garrison, 
were all at work. Giddings had been there from Ohio. 

Only a few days before Lincoln arrived a great convention 
of free soilers and bolting Whigs had been held in Tremont 
Temple and its earnestness and passion had produced a deep 
impression. Sensitive as Lincoln was to every shade of popu- 
lar feeling and conviction the sentiment in New England 
stirred him as he had never been stirred before, on the ques- 
tion of slavery. Listening to Seward's speech in Tremont 
Temple, he seems to have had a sudden insight into the truth, 
a quick illumination ; and that night, as the two men sat talk- 
ing, he said gravely to the great anti-slavery advocate : 

"Governor Seward, I have been thinking about what you 
said in your speech. I reckon you are right. We have got to 
deal with this slavery question, and got to give much more 
attention to it hereafter than we have been doing." 



It was late in September when Lincoln started westward 
from his campaigning in New England. He stopped in Al- 
bany, N. Y., and in company with Thurlow Weed called on 
Fillmore then candidate for Vice-President. From Albany 
he went to Niagara. Mr. Herndon once asked him what 
made the deepest impression on him when he stood before 
the Falls. 

"The thing that struck me most forcibly when I saw the 
Falls," he responded, "was, where in the world did all that 
water come from?" The memory of Niagara remained 
with him and aroused many speculations. Among various 
notes for lectures which Nicolay and Hay found among Mr. 
Lincoln's papers after his death and published in his " Com- 
plete Works," is a fragment on Niagara which shows how 
deeply his mind was stirred by the majesty of that mighty 

"Niagara Falls ! By what mysterious power is it that mil- 
lions and millions are drawn from all parts of the world to 
gaze upon Niagara Falls? There is no mystery about the 
thing itself. Every effect is just as any intelligent man, 
knowing the causes, would anticipate without seeing it. If 
the water moving onward in a great river reaches a point 
where there is a perpendicular jog of a hundred feet in de- 
scent in the bottom of the river, it is plain the water will have 
a violent and continuous olunge at that point. It is also plain, 



the water, thus plunging, will foam and roar, and send up a 
mist continuously, in which last, during sunshine, there will 
be perpetual rainbows. The mere physical of Niagara Falls 
is only this. Yet this is really a very small part of that 
world's womder. Its power to excite reflection and emotion 
is its great charm. The geologist will demonstrate that the 
plunge, or fall, was once at Lake Ontario, and has worn its 
way back to its present position ; he will ascertain how fast it 
is wearing now, and so get a basis for determining how long 
it has been wearing back from Lake Ontario, and finally 
demonstrate by it that this world is at least fourteen thou- 
sand years old. A philosopher of a slightly different turn will 
say, 'Niagara Falls is only the lip of the basin out of which 
pours all the surplus water which rains down on two or three 
hundred thousand square miles of the earth's surface.' He 
will estimate with approximate accuracy that five hundred 
thousand tons of water fall with their full weight a distance 
of a hundred feet each minute — thus exerting a force equal 
to the lifting of the same weight, through the same space, in 
the same time. . . . 

"But still there is more. It calls up the indefinite past. 
When Columbus first sought this continent — when Christ 
suffered on the cross — when Moses led Israel through the 
Red Sea — nay, even when Adam first came from the hand of 
his Maker; then, as now, Niagara was roaring here. The 
eyes of that species of extinct giants whose bones fill the 
mounds of America have gazed on Niagara, as ours do now. 
Contemporary with the first race of men, and older than the 
first man, Niagara is strong and fresh to-day as ten thousand 
years ago. The Mammoth and Mastodon, so long dead that 
fragments of their monstrous bones alone testify that they 
ever lived, have gazed on Niagara — in that long, long time 
never still for a single moment, never dried, never froze, 
never slept, never rested." 

In his trip westward to Springfield from Niagara there oc- 
curred an incident which started Lincoln's mind on a new 
line of thought one which all that fall divided it with poli- 
tics. It happened that the boat by which he made part of the 



trip stranded in shallow water. The devices employed to float 
her, interested Lincoln much. He no doubt recalled the days 
when on the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Sangamon he 
had seen his own or his neighbors boats stuck on a sand-bar 
for hours, even days. Was there no way that these vexatious 
delays could be prevented in shallow streams? He set him- 
self resolutely at the task of inventing a practical device for 
getting boats over shoals. When he reached Springfield he 
began to build a model representing his idea. He showed the 
deepest interest in the work and Mr. Herndon says he would 
sometimes bring the model into his office and while whittling 
on it would talk of its merits and the revolution it was going 
to work on the western rivers. 

When Lincoln returned to Washington he took the model 
with him, and through Mr. Z. C. Robbins, a lawyer of Wash- 
ington, secured a patent. "He walked into my office 
one morning with a model of a western steamboat under his 
arm," says Mr. Robbins. "After a friendly greeting he 
placed his model on my office-table and proceeded to explain 
the principles embodied therein that he believed to be his own 
invention, and which, if new, he desired to secure by letters- 
patent. During my former residence in St. Louis, I had made 
myself thoroughly familiar with everything appertaining to 
the construction and equipment of the flat-bottomed steam- 
boats that were adapted to the shallow rivers of our western 
and southern States, and therefore, I was able speedily to 
come to the conclusion that Mr. Lincoln's proposed improve- 
ment of that class of vessels was new and patentable, and I 
so informed him. Thereupon he instructed me to prepare the 
necessary drawings and papers and prosecute an application 
for a patent for his invention at the United States patent 
office. I complied with his instructions and in due course of 
proceedings procured for him a patent that fully covered all 
the distinguishing features of his improved steamboat. The 


identical model that Mr. Lincoln brought to my office can 
now be seen in the United States patent office." 

But it was only his leisure which Lincoln spent in the fall 
of 1848 on his invention. All through October and the first 
days of November he was speaking up and down the State 
for Taylor. His zeal was rewarded in November by the elec- 
tion of the Whig ticket and a few weeks later he went back 
to Washington for the final session of the Thirtieth Con- 
gress. He went back resolved to do something regarding 
slavery. He seems to have seen but two things at that mo- 
ment which could constitutionally be done. The first was to 
allow the slave-holder no more ground than he had; to ac- 
complish this he continued to vote for the Wilmot proviso. 
The second was to abolish slavery in the District of Colum- 
bia. Over ten years before, in 1837, Lincoln had declared, 
in the assembly of Illinois, that the Congress of the United 
States had the power, under the constitution, to abolish 
slavery in the District of Columbia, but that the power ought 
not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of the 
District. When he went to Washington in 1847 ne found a 
condition of things which made him feel that Congress ought 
to exercise the power it had. There had existed for years in 
the city a slave market : "a sort of negro livery stable, where 
droves of negroes were collected, temporarily kept, and 
finally taken to southern markets, precisely like droves of 
horses,' , Lincoln said in describing it in later years ; and this 
frightful place was in view from the windows of the Capitol. 
Morally and intellectually shocked and irritated by this spec- 
tacle, Lincoln brooded over it until now, in the second ses- 
sion of his term, he decided to ask that Congress exercise the 
power he had affirmed ten years before belonged to it, and 
on January 16, 1849, ne drew up and presented a bill to abol- 
ish slavery in the District of Columbia, "with the consent of 
the voters of the District and with compensation to owners 


The bill caused a noise in the House, but came to naught, 
as indeed at that date any similar bill was bound to do. It 
showed, however, more plainly than anything Lincoln had 
done so far in Congress his fearlessness when his convictions 
were aroused. 

The inauguration of Taylor on March 4, 1849, ended Lin- 
coln's congressional career. The principle, "turn about is 
fair play," which he had insisted on in 1846 when working 
for the nomination for himself, he regarded as quite as ap- 
plicable now. It was not because he did not desire to return 
to Congress. 

" I made the declaration that I would not be a candidate 
again," he wrote Herndon in January, 1848, "more from a 
wish to deal fairly with others, to keep peace among our 
friends, and to keep the district from going to the enemy, 
than from any cause personal to myself; so that, if it should 
so happen that nobody else wishes to be elected, I could not 
refuse the people the right of sending me again. But to 
enter myself as a competitor of others, or to authorize any 
one so to enter me, is what my word and honor forbid." 

And yet he was not willing to leave public life. The term 
in Congress had only increased his fondness for politics. It 
had given him a touch of that fever for public office from 
which so few men who have served in Congress ever entirely 
recover. The Whigs owed much to him, and there was a 
general disposition to gratify any reasonable ambition he 
might have. "I believe that, so far as the Whigs in Congress 
are concerned, I could have the General Land Office almost 
by common consent," he wrote Speed; "but then Sweet and 
Don Morrison and Browning and Cyrus Edwards all want it, 
and what is worse, while I think I could easily take it myself, 
I fear I shall have trouble to get it for any other man in Illi- 
nois. ,, 

Although he feared his efforts would be useless, he pledged 
his support to his friend, Cyrus Edwards. While Lincoln 


was looking after Edwards's interests, a candidate appeared 
who was most objectionable to the Whigs, General Justin 
Butterfield. Lincoln did all he could to defeat Butterfield 
save the one thing necessary — ask the position for himself. 
This he would not do until he learned that Edwards had no 
chance. Then he applied; but it was too late. Butterfield 
had secured the office while Lincoln had been holding back. 
When Edwards found that Lincoln had finally applied for 
the place, he accused him of treachery. Lincoln was deeply 
hurt by the suspicion. 

" The better part of one's life consists of his friend- 
ships," he wrote to Judge Gillespie, " and, of them, 
mine with Mr. Edwards was one of the most cherished. 
I have not been false to it. At a word I could have had 
the office any time before the Department was committed 
to Mr. Butterfield — at least Mr. Ewing and the President 
say as much. That word I forbore to speak, partly for other 
reasons, but chiefly for Mr. Edwards's sake — losing the 
office that he might gain it. I was always for (him) ; but to 
lose his friendship, by the effort for him, would oppress me 
very much, were I not sustained by the utmost consciousness 
of rectitude. I first determined to be an applicant, uncondi- 
tionally, on the 2d of June ; and I did so then upon being in- 
formed by a telegraphic despatch that the question was nar- 
rowed down to Mr. B. and myself, and that the Cabinet had 
postponed the appointment three weeks for my benefit. Not 
doubting that Mr. Edwards was wholly out of the question, 
I, nevertheless, would not then have become an applicant had 
I supposed he would thereby be brought to suspect me of 
treachery to him. Two or three days afterwards a conversa- 
tion with Levi Davis convinced me Mr. Edwards was dis- 
satisfied ; but I was then too far in to get out. His own let- 
ter, written on the 25th of April, after I had fully informed 
him of all that had passed, up to within a few days of that 
time, gave assurance I had that entire confidence from him 
which I felt my uniform and strong friendship for him en- 
titled me to. Among other things it says : 'Whatever course 


your judgment may dictate as proper to be pursued shall 
never be excepted to by me." I also had had a letter from 
Washington saying Chambers, of the " Republic," had 
brought a rumor there, that Mr. E. had declined 
in my favor, which rumor I judged came from Mr. 
E. himself, as I had not then breathed of his letter to 
any living creature. In saying I had never, before the 2d 
of June, determined to be an applicant, unconditionally, I 
mean to admit that, before then, I had said, substantially, I 
would take the office rather than it should be lost to the State, 
or given to one in the State whom the Whigs did not want ; 
but I aver that in every instance in which I spoke of myself 
I intended to keep, and now believe I did keep, Mr. E. above 
myself. Mr. Edwards's first suspicion was that I had al- 
lowed Baker to overreach me, as his friend, in behalf of Don 
Morrison. I know this was a mistake; and the result has 
proved it. I understand his view now is, that if I had gone 
to open war with Baker I could have ridden him down, and 
had the thing all my own way. I believe no such thing. With 
Baker and some strong man from the Military tract and else- 
where for Morrison, and we and some strong men from the 
Wabash and elsewhere for Mr. E., it was not possible for 
either to succeed. I believed this in March, and I know it 
now. The only thing which gave either any chance was the 
very thing Baker and I proposed — an adjustment with them- 

"You may wish to know how Butterfield finally beat me. 
I cannot tell you particulars now, but will when I see you. In 
the meantime let it be understood I am not greatly dissatis- 
fied — I wish the office had been so bestowed as to encourage 
our friends in future contests, and I regret exceedingly Mr. 
Edwards's feelings towards me. These two things away, I 
should have no regrets — at least I think I would not." 

It was not until eleven years later that Edwards forgave 
Lincoln. Then at Judge Gillespie's request he promised to 
" bury the hatchet with Lincoln " and to enter the campaign 
for him. 

Lincoln declared that he had no regrets about the way the 
General Land Office went, but, if he had not, his Whig 


friends in Washington had. They determined to do some- 
thing for him, and in the summer of 1849 summoned him to 
the capital to urge him to accept the governorship of Oregon. 
The Territory would soon be a State, it was believed, and 
Lincoln would then undoubtedly be chosen to represent it in 
the United States Senate. Unquestionably, a splendid politi- 
cal prospect was thus opened. Many of Lincoln's friends ad- 
vised him to accept; his wife, however, disliked the idea of 
life in the far West, and on her account he refused the place. 

The events of the summer of 1849 seemed to Lincoln to 
end his political career. He had no time to brood over his 
situation, however. The necessity of earning a livelihood 
was too imperative. His financial obligations were, in fact 
considerable. The old debt for the New Salem store still 
hung over him ; he had a growing family ; and his father and 
mother, who were still living in Coles county, whither they 
had moved in 1831, were dependent upon him for many of 
the necessaries, as well as all the comforts, of their lives. At 
intervals ever since he had left home he had helped them; 
now by saving their land from the foreclosing of a mortgage, 
now by paying their doctor's bills, now by adding to the 
cheerfulness of their home. 

He was equally kind to his other relatives, visiting them 
and aiding them in various ways. Among these relatives 
were two cousins, Abraham and Mordecai, the sons of his 
uncle Mordecai Lincoln, who lived in Hancock County, in his 
congressional district. At Quincy, also in his district, lived 
with his family a brother of his mother — Joseph Hanks. Lin- 
coln never went to Quincy without going to see his uncle Jo- 
seph and "uncle Joe's Jake," as he called one of his cousins. 
"On these occasions," writes one of the latter's family, Mr. 
J. M. Hanks of Florence, Colorado, "mirth and jollity 
abounded, for Mr. Lincoln indulged his bent of story-tell- 
ing to the utmost, until a late hour." His half-brother, John 


Johnston, he aided for many years. His help did not always 
take the form of money. Johnston was shiftless and always 
in debt, and consequently restless and discontented. In 185 1 
he was determined to borrow money or sell his farm, and 
move to Missouri. He proposed to Mr. Lincoln that he lend 
him eighty dollars. Mr. Lincoln answered : 

" What I propose is, that you shall go to work, ' tooth and 
nail/ for somebody who will give you money for it. . . . 
I now promise you, that for every dollar you will, between 
this and the first of May, get for your own labor, either in 
money or as your own indebtedness, I will then give you one 
other dollar. ... In this I do not mean you shall go 
off to St. Louis, or the lead mines, or the gold mines in Cali- 
fornia, but I mean for you to go at it for the best wages you 
can get close to home in Coles county. Now, if you will do 
this, you will be soon out of debt, and, what is better, you 
will have a habit that will keep you from getting in debt 
again. But, if I should now clear you out of debt, next year 
you would be just as deep in as ever. You say you would 
almost give your place in Heaven for seventy or eighty dol- 
lars. Then you value your place in Heaven very cheap, for I 
am sure you can, with the offer I make, get the seventy or 
eighty dollars for four or five months' work." 

A few months later Lincoln wrote Johnston in regard to 
his contemplated move to Missouri : 

"What can you do in Missouri better than here? Is the 
land any richer? Can you there, any more than here, raise 
corn and wheat and oats without work ? Will anybody there, 
any more than here, do your work for you? If you intend to 
go to work, there is no better place than right where you are ; 
if you do not intend to go to work, you cannot get 
along anywhere. Squirming and crawling about from 
place to place can do no good. You have raised no 
crop this year ; and what you really want is to sell the land, 
get the money, and spend it. Part with the land you have, 
and, my life upon it, you will never after own a spot big 



enough to bury you in. Half you will get for the land you 
will spend in moving to Missouri, and the other half you will 
eat, drink, and wear out, and no foot of land will be bought. 
Now, I feel it my duty to have no hand in such a piece of 
foolery. " 

All this plain advice did not prevent Johnston trying to 
sell a small piece of land on which Mr. Lincoln had paid the 
mortgage in order to secure it to his step-mother during her 
life. When Mr. Lincoln received this proposition he replied : 

"Your proposal about selling the east forty acres of land is 
£ll that I want or could claim for myself; but I am not satis- 
fied with it on mother's account. I want her to have her liv- 
ing, and I feel that it is my duty, to some extent, to see that 
she is not wronged. She had a right of dower (that is, the 
use of one-third for life) in the other two forties; but, it 
seems, she has already let you take that, hook and line. She 
now has the use of the whole of the east forty as long as she 
lives, and if it be sold, of course she is entitled to the interest 
on all the money it brings as long as she lives ; but you pro- 
pose to sell it for three hundred dollars, take one hundred 
away with you, and leave her two hundred at eight per cent., 
making her the enormous sum of sixteen dollars a year. 
Now, if you are satisfied with treating her in that way, I am 
not. It is true that you are to have that forty for two hundred 
dollars at mother's death ; but you are not to have it before. I 
am confident that land can be made to produce for mother at 
least thirty dollars a year, and I cannot, to oblige any living 
person, consent that she shall be put on an allowance of six- 
teen dollars a year." 

It was these obligations which made Lincoln resume at 
once the practice of the law. He decided to remain in 
Springfield, although he had an opportunity to go in with a 
well-established Chicago lawyer. For many reasons life in 
Springfield was satisfactory to him. He had bought a home 
there in 1844, and was deeply attached to it. There, too, he 
was surrounded by scores of friends who had known him 


since his first appearance in the town, and to many of whom 
he was related by marriage ; and he had the good will of the 
community. In short, he was a part of Springfield. The very 
children knew him, for there was not one of them for whom 
he had not done some kind deed. "My first strong impres- 
sion of Mr. Lincoln/' says a lady of Springfield, "was made 
by one of his kind deeds. I was going with a little friend for 
my first trip alone on the railroad cars. It was an epoch of 
my life. I had planned for it and dreamed of it for weeks. 
The day I was to go came, but as the hour of the train ap- 
proached, the hackman, through some neglect, failed to call 
for my trunk. As the minutes went on, I realized, in a panic 
of grief, that I should miss the train. I was standing by the 
gate, my hat and gloves on, sobbing as if my heart would 
break, when Mr. Lincoln came by. 

" 'Why, what's the matter ?' he asked, and I poured out all 
my story. 

" 'How big's the trunk? There's still time, if it isn't too 
big.' And he pushed through the gate and up to the door. My 
mother and I took him up to my room, where my little old- 
fashioned trunk stood, locked and tied. 'Oh, ho,' he cried; 
'wipe your eyes and come on quick.' And before I knew what 
he was going to do, he had shouldered the trunk, was down 
stairs, and striding out of the yard. Down the street he went, 
fast as his long legs could carry him. I trotting behind, dry- 
ing my tears as I went. We reached the station in time. Mr. 
Lincoln put me on the train, kissed me good-bye, and told 
me to have a good time. It was just like him." 

This sensitiveness to a child's wants made Mr. Lincoln a 
most indulgent father. He continually carried his boys about 
with him, and their pranks, even when they approached re- 
bellion, seemed to be an endless delight to him. Like most 
boys, they loved to run away, and neighbors of the Lincolns 
tell many tales of Mr. Lincoln's captures of the culprits. One 


of the prettiest of all these is a story told of an escape Willie 
once made, when three or four years old, from the hands of 
his mother, who was giving him a tubbing. He scampered 
out of the door without the vestige of a garment on him, flew 
up the street, clipped under a fence into a great green field, 
and took across it. Mr. Lincoln was sitting on the porch, 
and discovered the pink and white runaway as he was cut- 
ting across the greensward. He stood up, laughing aloud, 
while the mother entreated him to go in pursuit; then he 
started in chase. Half-way across the field he caught the 
child, and gathering him up in his long arms, he covered his 
rosy form with kisses. Then mounting him on his back, the 
chubby legs around his neck, he rode him back to his mother 
and his tub. 

It was a frequent custom with Lincoln, this of carrying his 
children on his shoulders. He rarely went down street that 
he did not have one of his younger boys mounted on his 
shoulder, while another hung to the tail of his long coat, 
The antics of the boys with their father, and the species of 
tyranny they exercised over him, are still subjects of talk in 
Springfield. Mr. Roland Diller, who was a neighbor of Mr. 
Lincoln, tells one of the best of the stories. He was called 
to the door one day by hearing a great noise of children cry- 
ing, and there was Mr. Lincoln striding by with the boys, 
both of whom were wailing aloud. "Why, Mr. Lincoln, 
what's the matter with the boys ?" he asked. 

"Just what's the matter with the whole world," Lincoln 
replied; "I've got three walnuts and each wants two." 

Another of Lincoln's Springfield acquaintances, the Rev. 
Mr. Alcott of Elgin, 111., tells of seeing him coming away 
from church, unusually early one Sunday morning. "The 
sermon could not have been more than half way through," 
says Mr. Alcott. " Tad' was slung across his left arm like a 
pair of saddle-bags, and Mr. Lincoln was striding along with 


long, and deliberate steps toward his home. On one of the 
street corners he encountered a group of his fellow-towns- 
men. Mr. Lincoln anticipated the question which was about 
to be put by the group, and, taking his figure of speech from 
practices with which they were only too familiar, said: 
' Gentlemen, I entered this colt, but he kicked around so I 
had to withdraw him/ " 

There was no institution in Springfield in which Lincoln 
had not taken an active interest in the first years of his resi- 
dence ; and now that he had decided to remain in the town, he 
resumed all his old relations, from the daily visits to the 
drug-stores on the public square, which were the recognized 
rendezvous of Springfield politicians and lawyers, to his 
weekly attendance at the First Presbyterian church. That 
he was as regular in his attendance on the latter as on the 
former, all his old neighbors testify. In fact, Lincoln, all his 
life, went regularly to church. The serious attention which 
he gave the sermons he heard is shown in a well-authenti- 
cated story of a visit he made in 1837, with a company of 
friends, to a camp-meeting held six miles west of Springfield 
at the "Salem Church." The sermon on this occasion was 
preached by one of the most vigorous and original individ- 
uals in the pulpit of that day — the Rev. Dr. Peter Akers. In 
this discourse was a remarkable and prophetic passage, long 
remembered by those who heard it. The speaker prophesied 
the downfall of castes, the end of tyrannies, and the crushing 
out of slavery. As Lincoln and his friends returned home 
there was a long discussion of the sermon. 

"It was the most instructive sermon, and he is the most 
impressive preacher, I have ever heard," Lincoln said. "It is 
wonderful that God has given such power to men. I firmly 
believe his interpretation of prophecy, so far as I understand 
it, and especially about the breaking down of civil and re- 
ligious tyrannies; and, odd as it may seem, when he des- 



cribed those changes and revolutions, I was deeply impressed 
that I should be somehow strangely mixed up with them." 

If Lincoln was not at this period a man of strictly ortho- 
dox beliefs, he certainly was, if we accept his own words, 
profoundly religious. In the letters which passed between 
Lincoln and Speed in 1841 and 1842, when the two men 
were doubting their own hearts and wrestling with their dis- 
illusions and forebodings, Lincoln frequently expressed the 
idea to Speed that the Almighty had sent their suffering for a 
special purpose. When Speed finally acknowledged himself 
happily married, Lincoln wrote to him : "I always was super- 
stitious; I believe God made me one of the instruments of 
bringing your Fanny and you together, which union I have 
no doubt he had foreordained." Then, referring to his own 
troubled heart, he added : "Whatever He designs He will do 
for me yet. 'Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord/ 
is my text just now." 

Only a few months after Lincoln decided to settle perma- 
nently in Springfield his father, Thomas Lincoln, fell danger- 
ously ill. Lincoln in writing to John Johnston, his half- 
brother, said: "I sincerely hope father may recover his 
health, but, at all events, tell him to remember to call upon 
and confide in our great and good and merciful Maker, who 
will not turn away from him in any extremity. He notes 
the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our heads, 
and He will not forget the dying man who puts his trust in 

Lincoln's return to the law was characterized by a marked 
change in his habits. He gave much more attention to study 
than he ever had before. His colleagues in Springfield and 
on the circuit noticed this change. After court closed in the 
town on the circuit, and the lawyers were gathered in the bar- 
room or on the veranda of the tavern, telling stories and 
chaffing one another, Lincoln would join them, though often 


but for a few minutes. He would tell a story as he passed, 
and while they were laughing at its climax, would slip away 
to his room to study. Frequently this work was carried on 
far into the night. "Placing a candle on a chair at the head 
of the bed," says Mr. Herndon, "he would study for hours. 
I have known him to study in this position until two o'clock 
in the morning. Meanwhile, I and others who chanced to 
occupy the same room would be safely and soundly asleep." 
Although he worked so late, "he was in the habit of rising 
earlier than his brothers of the bar," says Judge Weldon. 
"On such occasions he was wont to sit by the fire, having un- 
covered the coals, and muse, ponder, and soliloquize." 

But it was not only the law that occupied him. He began 
a serious course of general education, studying mathematics, 
astronomy, poetry, as regularly as a school-boy who had les- 
sons to recite. In the winter of 1849-50 he even joined a 
club of a dozen gentlemen of Springfield who had begun the 
study of German, the meetings of the class being held in his 

Much of Lincoln's devotion to study at this period was due 
to his desire to bring himself in general culture up to the 
men whom he had been meeting in the East. No man ever 
realized his own deficiencies in knowledge and experience 
more deeply than Abraham Lincoln, nor made a braver 
struggle to correct them. He often acknowledged to his 
friends the consciousness he had of his own limitations 
in the simplest matters of life. Mr. H. C. Whitney, 
one of his old friends, gives a pathetic example of this. 
Once on the circuit his friends missed him after supper. 
When he returned, some one asked where he had been. 

" Well, I have been to a little show up at the Academy," he 

"He sat before the fire," says Mr. Whitney, "and narrated 
all the sights of that most primitive of county shows, given 


chiefly to school children. Next night he was missing again *, 
the show was still in town, and he stole in as before, and en- 
tertained us with a description of new sights — a magic lan- 
tern, electrical machine, etc. I told him I had seen all these 
sights at school. ' Yes,' said he sadly, ' I now have an ad- 
vantage over you, for the first time in my life seeing these 
things which are, of course, common to those who had, what 
I did not, a chance at an education when they were young.' " 

It was to make up for the "chance at an education" which 
he did not have in youth that Abraham Lincoln at forty years 
of age, after having earned the reputation of being one of 
the ablest politicians in Illinois, spent his leisure in study. 





When in 1849 Lincoln decided to abandon politics finally 
and to devote himself to the law, he had been practising for 
thirteen years. In spite of the many interruptions elec- 
tioneering and office-holding had caused he was well-estab- 
lished. Rejoining his partner Herndon — the firm of Lin- 
coln and Herndon had been only a name during Lincoln's 
term in Washington — he took up the law with a singleness 
of purpose which had never before characterized his practice. 

Lincoln's headquarters were in Springfield, but his prac- 
tice was itinerant. The arrangements for the administration 
of justice in Illinois in the early days were suited to the con- 
ditions of the country, the State being divided into judicial 
circuits including more or less territory according to the 
population. To each circuit a judge was appointed, who 
each spring and fall travelled from county-seat to county- 
seat to hold court. With the judge travelled a certain num- 
ber of the best-known lawyers of the district. Each lawyer 
had, of course, a permanent office in one of the county-seats, 
and often at several of the others he had partners, usually 
young men of little experience, for whom he acted as coun- 
sel in special cases. This peripatetic court prevailed in Illinois 
until the beginning of the fifties ; but for many years after, 
when the towns had grown so large that a clever lawyer 
might have enough to do in his own county, a few lawyers, 



Lincoln among them, who from long association felt that 
the circuit was their natural habitat refused to leave it. 

The circuit which Lincoln travelled was known as the 
"Eighth Judicial Circuit." It included fifteen counties in 
1845, though the territory has since been divided into more. 
It was about one hundred and fifty miles long by as many 
broad. There were no railroads in the Eighth Circuit until 
about 1854, and the court travelled on horseback or in car- 
riages. Lincoln had no horse in the early days of his prac- 
tice. It was his habit then to borrow one, or to join a com- 
pany of a half dozen or more in hiring a "three-seated spring 
wagon." Later he owned a turn-out of his own, which 
figures in nearly all the traditions of the Eighth Circuit ; the 
horse being described as "poky" and the buggy as "rattling." 

There was much that was irritating and uncomfortable in 
the circuit-riding of the Illinois court, but there was more 
which was amusing to a temperament like Lincoln's. The 
freedom, the long days in the open air, the unexpected if 
trivial adventures, the meeting with wayfarers and settlers 
— all was an entertainment to him. He found humor and 
human interest on the route where his companions saw noth- 
ing but commonplaces. "He saw the ludicrous in an assem- 
blage of fowls," says H. C. Whitney, one of his fellow- 
itinerants, "in a man spading his garden, in a clothes-line full 
of clothes, in a group of boys, in a lot of pigs rooting at a 
mill door, in a mother duck teaching her brood to swim — in 
everything and anything." The sympathetic observations 
of these long rides furnished humorous settings for some of 
his best stories. If frequently on these trips he fell into 
sombre reveries and rode with head bent, ignoring his com- 
panions, generally he took part in all the frolicking which 
went on, joining in practical jokes, singing noisily with the 
rest, sometimes even playing a Jew's-harp. 

When the county-seat was reached, the bench and ba* 



quickly settled themselves in the town tavern. It was usually 
a large two-story house with big rooms and long verandas. 
There was little exclusiveness possible in these hostelries. 


Ordinarily judge and lawyer slept two in a bed, and threi 
or four beds in a room. They ate at the common table witb 
jurors, witnesses, prisoners out on bail, travelling peddlers, 



teamsters, and laborers. The only attempt at classification 
on the landlord's part was seating the lawyers in a group at 
the head of the table. Most of them accepted this distinction 
complacently. Lincoln, however, seemed to be indifferent to 
it. One day, when he had come in and seated himself at the 
foot with the "fourth estate," the landlord called to him, 
"You're in the wrong place, Mr. Lincoln ; come up here." 

"Have you anything better to eat up there, Joe?" he in- 
quired quizzically; "if not, I'll stay here." 

The accommodations of the taverns were often unsatis- 
factory — the food poorly cooked, the beds hard. Lincoln ac- 
cepted everything with uncomplaining good nature, though 
his companions habitually growled at the hardships of the 
life. It was not only repugnance to criticism which might 
hurt others, it was the indifference of one whose thoughts 
were always busy with problems apart from physical com- 
fort, who had little notion of the so-called " refinements of 
life," and almost no sense of luxury and ease. 

The judge naturally was the leading character in these 
nomadic groups. He received all the special consideration 
the democratic spirit of the inhabitants bestowed on any one, 
and controlled his privacy and his time to a degree. Judge 
David Davis, who from 1848 presided over the Eighth Cir- 
cuit as long as Mr. Lincoln travelled it, was a man of unusual 
force of character, of large learning, quick impulses, and 
strong prejudices. Lincoln was from the beginning of their 
association a favorite with Judge Davis. Unless he joined 
the circle which the judge formed in his room after supper, 
his honor was impatient and distraught, interrupting the con- 
versation constantly by demanding: "Where's Lincoln?" 
"Why don't Lincoln come?" And when Lincoln did come, 
the judge would draw out story after story, quieting every- 
body who interrupted with an impatient, "Mr. Lincoln's talk- 
ing." If anyone came to the door to see the host in the midst 


af one of Lincoln's stories he would send a lawyer into the 
hall to see what was wanted, and, as soon as the door closed, 
order Lincoln to "go ahead." 

The appearance of the court in a town was invariably a 
stimulus to its social life. In all of the county-seats there 
were a few fine homes of which the dignity, spaciousness, 
and elegance still impress the traveller through Illinois. The 
hospitality of these houses was generous. Dinners, recep- 
tions, and suppers followed one another as soon as the court 
began. Lincoln was a favorite figure at all these gatherings. 

His favorite field, however, was the court. The court- 
houses of Illinois in which he practised were not log houses, 
as has been frequently taken for granted. "It is not proba- 
ble," says a leading member of the Illinois bar, "Mr. Lincoln 
ever saw a log court-house in central Illinois, where he prac- 
tised law, unless he saw one at Decatur, in Macon County. 
In a conversation between three members of the Supreme 
Court of Illinois, all of whom had been born in this State and 
had lived in it all their lives, and who were certainly familiar 
with the central portions of the State, all declared they had 
never seen a log court-house in the State." 

The court-houses in which Lincoln practised were stiff, 
old-fashioned wood or brick structures, usually capped by 
cupola or tower, and fronted by verandas with huge 
Doric or Ionic pillars. They were finished inside in the most 
uncompromising style — hard white walls, unpainted wood- 
work, pine floors, wooden benches. Usually they were heated 
by huge Franklin stoves, with yards of stove-pipe running 
wildly through the air, searching for an exit, and threaten- 
ing momentarily to un joint and tumble in sections. Few of 
the lawyers had offices in the town ; and a corner of the court- 
room, the shade of a tree in the court-yard, a sunny side of 
a building, were where they met their clients and transacted 


In the courts themselves there was a certain indifference 
to formality engendered by the primitive surroundings, 
which, however, the judges never allowed to interfere with 
the seriousness of the work. Lincoln habitually, when not 
busy, whispered stories to his neighbors, frequently to the 
annoyance of Judge Davis. If Lincoln persisted too long, 
the judge would rap on the chair and exclaim : "Come, come, 
Mr. Lincoln, I can't stand this ! There is no use trying to 
carry on two courts; I must adjourn mine or you yours, and 
I think you will have to be the one." As soon as the group 
had scattered, the judge would call one of the men to him 
and ask: "What was that Lincoln was telling?" 

"I was never fined but once for contempt of court," says 
one of the clerks of the court in Lincoln's day. "Davis fined 
me five dollars, Mr. Lincoln had just come in, and leaning 
over my desk had told me a story so irresistibly funny that 
I broke out into a loud laugh. The judge called me to order 
in haste, saying, 'This must be stopped. Mr. Lincoln, you 
are constantly disturbing this court with your stories/ Then 
to me, 'You may fine yourself five dollars for your disturb- 
ance/ I apologized, but told the judge that the story was 
worth the money. In a few minutes the judge called me to 
him. ' What was the story Lincoln told you ? ' he asked. I 
told him, and he laughed aloud in spite of himself. ' Remit 
your fine/ he ordered." 

The partiality of Judge Davis for Lincoln was shared by 
the members of the court generally. The unaffected friendli- 
ness and helpfulness of his nature had more to do with this 
than his wit and cleverness. If there was a new clerk in 
court, a stranger unused to the ways of the place, Lincoln 
was the first — sometimes the only one — to shake hands with 
him and congratulate him on his election. 

"No lawyer on the circuit was more unassuming than was 


Mr. Lincoln," says one who practised with him. "He arro- 
gated to himself no superiority over anyone — not even the 
most obscure member of the bar. He treated everyone with 
that simplicity and kindness that friendly neighbors manifest 
in their relations with one another. He was remarkably gen- 
tle with young lawyers becoming permanent residents at the 
several county-seats in the circuit where he had practised for 
so many years. . . . The result was, he became the 
much-beloved senior member of the bar. No young lawyer 
ever practised in the courts with Mr. Lincoln who did not in 
all his after life have a regard for him akin to personal af- 

"I remember with what confidence I always went to him," 
says Judge Lawrence Welden, who first knew Lincoln at the 
bar in 1854, "because I was certain he knew all about the 
matter and would most cheerfully help me. I can see him 
now, through the decaying memories of thirty years, stand- 
ing in the corner of the old court-room ; and as I approached 
him with a paper I did not understand, he said, 'Wait until 
I fix this plug of my "gallis" and I will pitch into that like a 
dog at a root/ While speaking he was busily engaged in 
trying to connect his suspenders with his pants by making a 
plug perform the function of a button." 

If for any reason Lincoln was absent from court, he was 
missed perhaps as no other man on the Eighth Circuit would 
have been, and his return greeted joyously. He was not 
less happy himself to rejoin his friends. "Ain't you glad I've 
come?" he would call out, as he came up to shake hands. 

The cases which fell to Lincoln on the Eighth Circuit were 
of the sort common to a new country. Litigation over bor- 
dering lines and deeds, over damages by wandering cattle, 
over broils at country festivities. Few of the cases were of 
large importance. When a client came to Lincoln his first 


effort was to arrange matters, if possible, and to avoid a suit 
In a few notes for a law lecture prepared about 1850, he 

"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to com- 
promise whenever you can. Point out to them how the 
nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and 
waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior 
opportunity of being a good man. There will still be busi- 
ness enough. 

"Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be 
found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a 
fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds 
in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and 
put money in his pocket ? A moral tone ought to be infused 
into the profession which should drive such men out of it." 

He carried out this in his practice. "Who was your 
guardian?" he asked a young man who came to him to com- 
plain that a part of the property left him had been withheld. 
"Enoch Kingsbury," replied the young man. 

"I know Mr. Kingsbury," said Lincoln, "and he is not the 
man to have cheated you out of a cent, and I can't take the 
case, and advise you to drop the subject." And it was 

"We shall not take your case," he said to a man who had 
shown that by a legal technicality he could win property 
worth six hundred dollars. "You must remember that some 
things legally right are not morally right. We shall not take 
your case, but will give you a little advice for which we will 
charge you nothing. You seem to be a sprightly, energetic 
man ; we would advise you to try your hand at making six 
hundred dollars in some other way." 

Where he saw injustice he was quick to offer his services 
to the wronged party. A pleasant example of this is related 
by Joseph Jefferson in his "Autobiography." In 1839, Jef- 
ferson, then a lad of ten years, travelled through Illinois 


with his father's theatrical company. After playing at Chi- 
cago, Quincy, Peoria and Pekin, the company went in the 
fall to Springfield, where the sight of the legislature tempted 
the elder Jefferson and his partner to remain throughout the 
season. But there was no theatre. Not to be daunted they 
built one. But hardly had they completed it before a re- 
ligious revival broke out in the town, and the church people 
turned all their influence against the theatre. So effectually 
did they work that a law was passed by the municipality im- 
posing a license which was practically prohibitory. "In the 
midst of our trouble," says Jefferson, "a young lawyer called 
on the managers. He had heard of the injustice, and offered, 
if they would place the matter in his hands, to have the license 
taken off, declaring that he only desired to see fair play, and 
he would accept no fee whether he failed or succeeded. The 
young lawyer began his harangue. He handled the subject 
with tact, skill, and humor, tracing the history of the drama 
from the time when Thespis acted in a cart to the stage of 
to-day. He illustrated his speech with a number of anecdotes, 
and kept the council in a roar of laughter. His good humor 
prevailed, and the exorbitant tax was taken off." The 
"young lawyer" was Lincoln. 

Having accepted a case, Lincoln's first object seemed to be 
to reduce it to its simplest elements. "If I can clean this case 
of technicalities, and get it properly swung to the jury, I'll 
win it," he told his partner Herndon one day. He began by 
getting at what seemed to him the pivot on which it rested. 
Sure of that, he cared little for anything else. He trusted 
very little to books; a great deal to common sense and his 
ideas of right and wrong. 

"In the make of his character Mr. Lincoln had many ele- 
ments essential to the successful circuit lawyer," says one of 
his fellow-practitioners. "He knew much of the law as writ- 
ten in the books, and had that knowledge ready for use at all 


times. That was a valuable possession in the absence of law 
books, where none were obtainable on the circuit. But he 
had more than a knowledge of the law. He knew right and 
justice, and knew how to make their application to the af- 
fairs of every-day life. That was an element in his charac- 
ter that gave him power to prevail with the jury when argu- 
ing a case before them. Few lawyers ever had the influence 
with a jury that Mr. Lincoln had." 

When a case was clear to him and he was satisfied of its 
justice, he trusted to taking advantage of the developments 
of the trial to win. For this reason he made few notes be- 
forehand, rarely writing out his plan of argument. Those 
he left are amusingly brief ; for instance, the notes made for 


From the Lincoln collection in the law offices of Messrs. Vanuxem & Potter, of Philadel- 
phia. This characteristic memorandum was found by Messrs. Herndon & Weik in looking 
over the papers in Lincoln's law office. It was the label to a package of letters, pamphlets, 
and newspapers which he had tied together and marked. 

a suit he had brought against a pension agent who had with- 
held as fee half of the pension he had obtained for the aged 
widow of a Revolutionary soldier. Lincoln was deeply in- 
dignant at the agent, and had resolved to win his suit. He 
read up the Revolutionary war afresh, and when he came 
to address the jury drew a harrowing picture of the private 
soldier's sufferings and of the trials of his separation from 
his wife. The notes for this argument ran as follows : 

"No contract — Not professional services. Unreasonable 
charge, — Money retained by Deft not given by Prff. — 
Revolutionary War. — Soldier's bleeding feet. — Pl'ff's hus- 
band. — Soldier leaving home for army. — Skin deft.—* 


Lincoln's reason for not taking notes, as he told it to H. 
W. Beckwith, when a student in the Danville office of Lin- 
coln and Lamon, was : " Notes are a bother, taking time to 
make, and more to hunt them up afterwards; lawyers who 
do so soon get the habit of referring to them so much that 
it confuses and tires the jury." " He relied on his well- 
trained memory," says Mr. Beckwith, " that recorded and 
indexed every passing detail. And by his skilful questions, 
a joke, or pat retort as the trial progressed, he steered his 
jury from the bayous and eddies of side issues and kept 
them clear of the snags and sandbars, if any were put in the 
real channel of his case." 

Much of his strength lay in his skill in examining wit- 
nesses. "He had a most remarkable talent for examining 
witnesses," says an intimate associate; "with him it was a 
rare gift. It was a power to compel a witness to disclose the 
whole truth. Even a witness at first unfriendly, under his 
kindly treatment would finally become friendlv. and would 
wish to tell nothing he could honestly avoid against him, if 
he could state nothing for him." 

He could not endure an unfair use of testimony or the 
misrepresentation of his own position. "In the Harrison 
murder case," says Mr. T. W. S. Kidd of Springfield, a crier 
of the court in Lincoln's day, "the prosecuting attorney 
stated that such a witness made a certain statement, when 
Mr. Lincoln rose and made such a plaintive appeal to the at- 
torney to correct the statement, that the attorney actually 
made the amende honorable, and afterwards remarked to a 
brother lawyer that he could deny his own child's appeal as 
quickly as he could Mr. Lincoln's." 

Sometimes under provocation he became violently angry. 
In the murder case referred to above, the judge ruled con- 
trary to his expectations, and, as Mr. Lincoln said, contrary 
to the decision of the Supreme Court in a similar case. "Both 


Mr. Lincoln and Judge Logan, who was with him in the 
case," says Mr. Kidd, "rose to their feet quick as thought. I 
do think he was the most unearthly looking man I had ever 
seen. He roared like a lion suddenly aroused from his lair, 
and said and did more in ten minutes than I ever heard him 
say or saw him do before in an hour." 

He depended a great deal upon his stories in pleading, 
using them as illustrations which demonstrated the case more 
conclusively than argument could have done. Judge H. W. 
Beckwith of Danville, Illinois, in his "Personal Recollections 
of Lincoln," tells a story which is a good example of Lin- 
coln's way of condensing the law and the facts of an issue in 
a story. 

"A man, by vile words, first provoked and then made a 
bodily attack upon another. The latter in defending him- 
self gave the other much the worst of the encounter. The 
aggressor, to get even, had the one who thrashed him tried 
in our circuit court upon a charge of an assault and battery. 
Mr. Lincoln defended, and told the jury that his client was 
in the fix of a man who, in going along the highway with a 
pitchfork on his shoulder, was attacked by a fierce dog that 
ran out at him from a farmer's door-yard. In parrying off 
the brute with the fork its prongs stuck into the brute and 
killed him. 

" 'What made you kill my dog?' said the farmer. 

" 'What made him try to bite me ?' 

" 'But why did you not go at him with the other end of 
the pitchfork?' 

" 'Why did he not come after me with his other end ?' At 
this Mr. Lincoln whirled about in his long arms an imagin- 
ary dog and pushed its tail end toward the jury. This was 
the defensive plea of 'son assault demesne' — loosely, that 'the 
other fellow brought on the fight,' — quickly told, and in a 
way the dullest mind would grasp and retain." 


Mr. T. W. S. Kidd says that he once heard a lawyer op- 
posed to Lincoln trying to convince a jury that precedent was 
superior to law, and that custom made things legal in all 
cases. When Lincoln arose to answer him he told the jury 
he would argue his case in the same way. Said he: "Old 
'Squire Bagly, from Menard, came into my office and said, 
'Lincoln, I want your advice as a lawyer. Has a man what's 
been elected justice of the peace a right to issue a marriage 
license ?' I told him he had not ; when the old 'squire threw 
himself back in his chair very indignantly, and said : 'Lin- 
coln, I thought you was a lawyer. Now Bob Thomas and 
me had a bet on this thing, and we agreed to let you decide ; 
but if this is your opinion I don't want it, for I know a 
thunderin' sight better, for I have been 'squire now eight 
years and have done it all the time.' " 

His manner of telling stories was most effective. "When 
he chose to do so," writes Judge Scott, " he could place the 
opposite party, and his counsel too, for that matter, in a most 
ridiculous attitude by relating in his inimitable way a perti- 
nent story. That often gave him a great advantage with the 
jury. A young lawyer had brought an action in trespass to 
recover damages done to his client's growing crops by de- 
fendant's hogs. The right of action under the law of Illinois, 
as it was then, depended on the fact whether plaintiff's fence 
was sufficient to turn ordinary stock. There was some little 
conflict in the evidence on that question; but the weight of 
the testimony was decidedly in favor of plaintiff, and sus- 
tained beyond all doubt his cause of action. Mr. Lincoln ap- 
peared for defendant. There was no controversy as to the 
damage done by defendant's stock. The only thing in the 
case that could possibly admit of any discussion was the con- 
dition of plaintiff's fence; and as the testimony on that ques- 
tion seemed to be in favor of plaintiff, and as the sum in- 
volved was little in amount, Mr. Lincoln did not deem it nee- 


essary to argue the case seriously, but by way of saying 
something in behalf of his client he told a little story about a 
fence that was so crooked that when a hog went through an 
opening in it, invariably it came out on the same side from 
whence it started. His description of the confused look of 
the hog after several times going through the fence and still 
finding itself on the side from which it had started, was a 
humorous specimen of the best story-telling. The effect was 
to make plaintiff's case appear ridiculous; and while Mr. 
Lincoln did not attempt to apply the story to the case, the 
jury seemed to think it had some kind of application to the 
fence in controversy — otherwise he would not have told it — 
and shortly returned a verdict for the defendant." 

Those unfamiliar with his methods frequently took his 
stories as an effort to wring a laugh from the jury. A law- 
yer, a stranger to Mr. Lincoln, once expressed to General 
Linder the opinion that this practice of Lincoln was a waste 
of time. "Don't lay that flattering unction to your soul," 
Linder answered; "Lincoln is like Tansey's horse, he 'breaks 
to win/ " 

But it was not his stories, it was his clearness which was 
his strongest point. He meant that the jury should see that 
he was right. For this reason he never used a word which 
the dullest juryman could not understand. Rarely, if ever, 
did a Latin term creep into his arguments. A lawyer quot- 
ing a legal maxim one day in court, turned to Lincoln, and 
said : "That is so, is it not, Mr. Lincoln ?" 

"If that's Latin," Lincoln replied, "you had better call an- 
other witness." 

His illustrations were almost always of the homeliest kind. 
He did not care to "go among the ancients for figures," he 

" Much of the force of his argument," writes Judge Scott, 
" lay in his logical statement of the facts of a case. When 


he had in that way secured a clear understanding of the facts, 
the jury and the court would seem naturally to follow him in 
his conclusions as to the law of the case. His simple and 
natural presentation of the facts seemed to give the impres- 
sion that the jury were themselves making the statement. 
He had the happy and unusual faculty of making the jury 
believe they — and not he — were trying the case. Mr. Lin- 
coln kept himself in the background, and apparently assumed 
nothing more than to be an assistant counsel to the court or 
the jury, on whom the primary responsibility for the final 
decision of the case in fact rested. " 

He rarely consulted books during a trial, lest he lose the at- 
tention of the jury, and if obliged to, translated their state- 
ments into the simplest terms. In his desire to keep his case 
clear he rarely argued points which seemed to him unessen- 
tial. "In law it is good policy never to plead what you need 
not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you can not," he 
wrote. He would thus give away point after point with an 
indifferent "I reckon that's so/' until the point which he con- 
sidered pivotal was reached, and there he hung. 

"In making a speech," says Mr. John Hill, "Mr. Lincoln 
was the plainest man I ever heard. He was not a speaker but 
a talker. He talked to jurors and to political gatherings 
plain, sensible, candid talk, almost as in conversation, no ef- 
fort whatever in oratory. But his talking had wonderful ef- 
fect. Honesty, candor, fairness, everything that was con- 
vincing, were in his manner and expressions." 

This candor of which Mr. Hill speaks characterized his 
entire conduct of a trial. "It is well understood by the pro- 
fession," says General Mason Brayman, "that lawyers do not 
read authorities favoring the opposing side. I once heard 
Mr. Lincoln, in the supreme court of Illinois, reading from a 
reported case some strong points in favor of his argument 
Reading a little too far, and before becoming aware of it, he 


plunged into an authority against himself. Pausing a mo 
ment, he drew up his shoulders in a comical way, and half 
laughing, went on, 'There, there, may it please the court, I 
reckon I've scratched up a snake. But, as I'm in for it, I 
guess I'll read it through.' Then, in his most ingenious and 
matchless manner, he went on with his argument, and won 
his case, convincing the court that it was not much of a snake 
after all." 


Lincoln's important law cases — defence of a slave 
girl the mccormick case the armstrong mur- 
der case the rock island bridge case 

Abraham Lincoln's place in the legal circle of Illinois 
has never been clearly defined. The ordinary impression is 
that, though he was a faithful and trusted lawyer, he never 
rose to the first rank of his profession. This idea has come 
from imperfect information concerning his legal career. An 
examination of the reports of the Illinois Supreme Court 
from 1840, when he tried his first case before that body, to 
1 86 1, when he gave up his profession to become President of 
the United States, shows that in this period of twenty years, 
broken as it was, from 1847 to x 849, by a term in Congress, 
and interrupted constantly, from 1854 to i860, by his labors 
in opposition to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Lin- 
coln was engaged in nearly one hundred cases before that 
court, some of them of great importance. This fact shows 
him to have been one of the leading lawyers of his State. 
Between ninety and one hundred cases before the Supreme 
Court of a State in twenty years is a record surpassed by but 
few lawyers. It was exceeded by none of Lincoln's Illinois 

Among the cases in which he was prominent and of which 
we have reports, there are several of dramatic import, 
viewing them, as we can now, in connection with his 
later life. One of the first in which he appeared before the 
Illinois Supreme Court involved the freedom of a negro girl 
called Nance. In spite of the fact that Illinois had been free 



since "its admission as a State, many traces of slavery still 
remained, particularly in the southern and central parts 
of the State. Among the scattered slaveholders was one 
Nathan Cromwell of Tazewell County, who for some years 
had in his service a negro girl, Nance. He claimed that 
Nance was bound to him by indenture, and that he had the 
right to sell her as any other property, a right he succeeded 
finally in exercising. One of his neighbors, Baily by name, 
bought the girl ; but the purchase was conditional : Baily was 
to pay for his property only when he received from Cromwell 
title papers showing that Nance was bound to serve under 
the laws of the State. These papers Cromwell failed to pro- 
duce before his death. Later his heirs sued Baily for the 
purchase price. Baily employed Lincoln to defend him. The 
case was tried in September, 1839, an( ^ decided against Baily. 
Then in July, 1841, it was tried again, before the Supreme 
Court of the State. Lincoln proved that Nance had lived for 
several years in the State, that she was over twenty-one years 
of age, that she had declared herself to be free, and that she 
had even purchased goods on her own account. The list of 
authorities he used in the trial to prove that Nance could 
not be held in bondage shows that he was already familiar 
with both Federal and State legislation on the slavery ques- 
tion up to that date. He went back to the Ordinance of 
1787, to show that slavery was forbidden in the Northwest 
Territory; he recalled the Constitution that had made the 
State free in 1818; he showed that by the law of nations no 
person can be sold in a free State. His argument convinced 
the court; the judgment of the lower court was overruled, 
and Nance was free. 

After Lincoln's return from Congress in 1849, ne was en ~ 
gaged in some of the most important cases of the day. One 
of these was a contest between the Illinois Central Railroad, 
at that time building, and McLean County, Illinois. This 

(In the Lincoln collection of Mr. William H. Lambert of Philadelphia, Pa.) 

They formerly belonged to the Lincoln Memorial Collection of Chicago. Accompanying the ink- 
stand is a letter saying that Mr. Lincoln wrote from it the famous " house-divided-against-itself " 


road had been exempted by the legislature from all State 
taxation on condition that it pay perpetually into the State 
treasury seven per cent, of its annual gross earnings. When 
the line was laid in McLean County the county authorities 
declared that the State legislature could not excuse the rail- 
road company from paying county taxes; accordingly the 
company's property was assessed and a tax levied. If this 
claim of the county could be sustained, it was certain to kill 
the railroad; and great preparations were made for the de- 
fence. The solicitor of the Illinois Central at that time was 
General Mason Brayman, who retained Lincoln. The case 
was tried at Bloomington, before the supreme court, and, 
largely through the efforts of Lincoln, was won for the road. 
According to Herndon, Lincoln charged for his services a 
fee of two thousand dollars. Going to Chicago he presented 
his bill. "Why," said the officer to whom he applied, "this is 
as much as a first-class lawyer would have charged." 

Stung by the ungrateful speech, Lincoln withdrew the bill, 
left the office, and at the first opportunity submitted the mat- 
ter to his friends. Five thousand dollars, they all agreed, 
was a moderate fee, considering what he had done for the 
road, and six leading lawyers of the State signed a paper in 
which they declared that such a charge would not be "un- 
reasonable." Lincoln then sued the road for that amount, 
and won his case. "He gave me my half," says Herndon; 
"and as much as we deprecated the avarice of great corpora- 
tions, we both thanked the Lord for letting the Illinois Cen- 
tral Railroad fall into our hands." 

The current version of this story names General George B. 
McClellan as the testy official who snubbed Lincoln when he 
presented the bill. This could not have been. The incident 
occurred in 1855; that year Captain McClellan spent in the 
Crimea, as one of a commission of three sent abroad to study 
the European military service as disolayed in the Crimean 


war. It was not until January, 1857, that McClellan re- 
signed his commission in the United States army to become 
the chief engineer, and afterwards vice-president, of the Illi- 
nois Central Railroad. It was when an officer of the Illinois 
Central, however, that McClellan first met Lincoln. "Long 
before the war," he says, in "McClellan's Own Story," 
"when vice-president of the Illinois Central Railroad, I knew 
Mr. Lincoln, for he was one of the counsel of the company. 
More than once I have been with him in out-of-the-way 
county-seats where some important case was being tried, and, 
in the lack of sleeping accommodations, have spent the night 
in front of a stove, listening to the unceasing flow of anec- 
dotes from his lips. He was never at a loss, and I could 
never quite make up my mind how many of them he had 
really heard before, and how many he invented on the spur 
of the moment. His stories were seldom refined, but were 
always to the point." 

It was through his legal practice that Lincoln first met 
still another man who was to sustain a relation of the great- 
est importance to him in the war. This man was Edwin 
M. Stanton. The meeting occurred in Cincinnati in 1855, in 
connection with a patent case which is famous in the legal 
history of the country, and in which both Lincoln and Stan- 
ton had been retained as counsel. So much that is false has 
been written of this meeting, that a full and exact statement 
of the circumstances has been obtained for this work from 
Mr. George Harding of Philadelphia, the only one of either 
judges or counsel in the case living at this writing. 

"Cyrus H. McCormick owned reaping-machine patents 
granted in 1845 an d 1847," sa y s Mr. Harding, "upon which 
he sued John M. Manny and Co. of Rockford, Illinois. Mr. 
Manny had obtained patents also. Manny and Co. were 
large manufacturers of reaping-machines under Manny's 
patents. McCormick contended that his patents were valid 
and secured to him a virtual monopoly of all practical reap- 


ing machines as constructed at that date. If McCormick had 
been successful in his contention, Manny would have been 
enjoined, his factory stopped, and a claim of four hundred 
thousand dollars damages demanded from his firm. McCor- 
mick' s income from that monopoly would have been vastly 
increased. Hence the suit was very important to all parties 
and to the farming public. The plaintiff McCormick had re- 
tained Mr. E. N. Dickerson and Reverdy Johnson. The 
former was entrusted with the preparation of the plaintiff's 
case and the argument before the court on the mechanics of 
the case. Mr. P. H. Watson, who had procured Manny's 
patents, was given by Manny the entire control of the de- 
fendant's case, He employed Mr. George Harding to pre- 
pare the defence for Manny, and to argue the mechanics of 
the case before the court. In those times it was deemed im- 
portant in patent cases to employ associate counsel not spe- 
cially familiar with mechanical questions, but of high stand- 
ing in the general practice of the law, and of recognized 
forensic ability. If such counsel represented the defendant 
he urged upon the court the importance of treating the 
patentee as a quasi-monopolist, whose claims should be 
limited to the precise mechanical contributions which he had 
made to the art; while, on the other hand, the plaintiff's 
forensic counsel was expected to dwell upon the privations 
and labor of the patentee, and insist on a very liberal view 
of his claims, and to hold that defendants who had appro- 
priated any of his ideas should be treated as pirates. The 
necessity of the forensic contribution in the argument of 
patent cases is not now recognized. 

"McCormick had selected Mr. Reverdy Johnson for the 
forensic part of his case. Mr. Watson was in doubt as to 
whom to select to perform this duty for the defendants. At 
the suggestion of Mr. Manny, Mr. Watson wrote to Mr. Lin- 
coln, sending to him a retainer of five hundred dollars, and 
requesting him to read the testimony, which was sent to him 
from time to time as taken, so that if Mr. Watson afterward 
concluded to have him argue the case he would be prepared, 
Mr. Harding had urged the employment of Mr. Stanton, 
who was personally known to him, and who then resided at 


"With a view to determining finally who should argue ths 
forensic part of Manny's case, Mr. Watson personally visited 
Springfield and conferred with Mr. Lincoln. On his way 
back from Springfield he called upon Mr. Stanton at Pitts- 
burg, and, after a conference, retained Mr. Stanton, and in- 
formed him distinctly that he was to make the closing argu- 
ment in the case. Nevertheless Mr. Lincoln was sent copies 
of the testimony ; he studied the testimony, and was paid for 
so doing, the same as Mr. Stanton. Mr. Watson considered 
that it would be prudent for Mr. Lincoln to be prepared, in 
case of Mr. Stanton's inability, for any cause, to argue the 
case ; so that, at the outset, Mr. Stanton was selected by Mr. 
Manny's direct representative to perform this duty. 

"When all the parties and counsel met at Cincinnati, Mr. 
Lincoln was first definitely informed by Mr. Watson of his 
determination that Mr. Stanton was to close the case for de- 
fendants. Mr. Lincoln was evidently disappointed at Mr. 
Watson's decision. Mr. Lincoln had written out his argu- 
ment in full. He was anxious to meet Mr. Reverdy Johnson 
in forensic contest. The case was important as to the amount 
in dispute, and of widespread interest to farmers. Mr. Lin- 
coln's feelings were embittered, moreover, because the plain- 
tiff's counsel subsequently, in open court, of their own mo- 
tion, stated that they perceived that there were three counsel 
present for defendant, and that plaintiff had only two coun- 
sel present; but they were willing to allow all three of de- 
fendant's counsel to speak, provided Mr. Dickerson, who 
had charge of the mechanical part of McCormick's case, were 
permitted to make two arguments, besides Mr. Johnson's 
argument. Mr. Watson, who had charge of defendant's 
case, declined this offer, because the case ultimately de- 
pended upon mechanical questions; and he thought that if 
Mr. Dickerson were allowed to open the mechanical part of 
the case, and then make a subsequent argument on the me- 
chanics, the temptation would be great to make an insuf- 
ficient or misleading mechanical opening of the case at first, 
and, after Mr. Harding had replied thereto, to make a fuller 
or different mechanical presentation, which could not be re- 
plied to by Mr. Harding. It was conceded that neither Mr. 
Lincoln nor Mr. Stanton was prepared to handle the me- 



chanics of the case either in opening or reply. In view of 
these facts, Mr. Watson decided that only two arguments 
would be made for Manny, and that Mr. Harding would 
open the case for defendant on the mechanical part, and Mr. 
Stanton would close on the general propositions of law ap- 
plicable to the case. Mr. Stanton said in court that per- 
sonally he had no desire to speak, but he agreed with Mr. 
Watson that only two arguments should be made for de- 
fendants whether he spoke or not. Mr. Lincoln, knowing 
Mr. Watson's wishes, insisted that Mr. Stanton should make 
the closing argument, and that he would not himself speak. 
Mr. Stanton accepted the position, and did speak, because he 
knew that such was the expressed wish and direction of Mr. 
Watson, who controlled the conduct of defendant's case. 

"Mr. Lincoln kindly and gracefully, but regretfully, ac- 
cepted the situation. He attended, and exhibited much in- 
terest in the case as it proceeded. He sent to Mr. Harding 
the written argument which he had prepared, that he might 
have the benefit of it before he made his opening argument ; 
but requested Mr. Harding not to show it to Mr. Stanton. 
The chagrin of Mr. Lincoln at not speaking continued, how- 
ever, and he felt that Mr. Stanton should have insisted on 
his, Mr. Lincoln's, speaking also ; while Mr. Stanton merely 
carried out the positive direction of his client that there 
should be only two arguments for defendant, and that he, 
Mr. Stanton, should close the case, and Mr. Harding should 
open the case. Mr. Lincoln expressed to Mr. Harding satis- 
faction at the manner in which the mechanical part of the 
case had been presented by him, and after Mr. Lincoln had 
been elected President, he showed his recollection of it by 
tendering Mr. Harding, of his own motion, a high position. 

"In regard to the personal treatment of Mr. Lincoln while 
in attendance at Cincinnati, it is to be borne in mind that Mr. 
Lincoln was known to hardly any one in Cincinnati at that 
date, and that Mr. Stanton was probably not impressed with 
the appearance of Mr. Lincoln. It is true there was no per- 
sonal intimacy formed between them while at Cincinnati. 
Mr. Lincoln was disappointed and unhappy while in Cin- 
cinnati, and undoubtedly did not receive the attention which 
he should have received. Mr. Lincoln felt all this, and par- 


ticularly, but unjustly, reflected upon Mr. Stanton as the 
main cause. When Mr. Lincoln was nominated for Presi- 
dent, Mr. Stanton, like many others in the country, sincerely 
doubted whether Mr. Lincoln was equal to the tremendous 
responsibility which he was to be called upon to assume as 
President. This is to be borne in mind, in view of events 
subsequent to the case at Cincinnati. Mr. Stanton never 
called upon Mr. Lincoln after he came to Washington as 
President. Mr. Lincoln in alluding to Mr. Stanton (both 
before and after his election as President) did not attempt 
to conceal his unkind feeling towards him, which had its 
origin at Cincinnati. This feeling did not undergo a change 
until after he met Mr. Stanton as Secretary of War. 

"The occurrences narrated show how one great man may 
underrate his fellow man. Mr. Stanton saw at Cincinnati 
in Mr. Lincoln only his gaunt, rugged features, his awkward 
dress and carriage, and heard only his rural jokes; but Stan- 
ton lived to perceive in those rugged lineaments only expres- 
sions of nobility and loveliness of character, and to hear from 
his lips only wisdom, prudence, and courage, couched in lan- 
guage unsurpassed in literature. But above all they show 
the nobility of Mr. Lincoln's character in forgetting all un- 
kind personal feeling engendered at Cincinnati towards Mr. 
Stanton, and subsequently appointing him his Secretary of 

" The above was narrated by Mr. Harding for the main 
purpose of correcting the popular impression that Mr. Stan- 
ton, of his own motion, rode over and displaced Mr. Lincoln 
in the case at Cincinnati ; for the truth is that Mr. Stanton, 
in the course he pursued, was directed by his clients' repre- 
sentative, Mr. Watson, who believed that he was serving 
the best interests of his clients." 

Lincoln was first suggested to Mr. Manny as counsel in 
this case by a younger member of the firm, Mr. Ralph Emer- 
son, of Rockford, Illinois. Mr. Emerson, as a student of 
law, had been thrown much into company with Mr. Lincoln, 
and had learned to respect his judgment and ability. Indeed, 
it was Lincoln wb^ was instrumental in deciding him to 


abandon the law. The young man had seen much in the 
practice of his chosen profession which seemed to him un- 
just, and he had begun to feel that the law was incompati- 
ble with his ideals. One evening, after a particularly trying 
day in court, he walked out with Lincoln. Suddenly turn- 
ing to his companion, he said : "Mr. Lincoln, I want to ask 
you a question. Is it possible for a man to practice law and 
always do by others as he would be done by?" Lincoln's 
head dropped on his breast, and he walked in silence for a 
long way; then he heaved a heavy sigh. When he finally 
spoke, it was of a foreign matter. "I had my answer," said 
Mr. Emerson, "and that walk turned the course of my life." 
During the trial at Cincinnati, Lincoln and Mr. Emerson 
were thrown much together, and Mr. Emerson's recollec- 
tions are particularly interesting. 

" As I was the sole intimate friend of Mr. Lincoln in the 
case, when it was decided that he should not take part in the 
argument, he invited me to his room to express his bitter dis- 
appointment ; and it was with difficulty that I persuaded him 
to remain as counsel during the hearing. We generally 
spent the afternoons together. The hearing had hardly pro- 
gressed two days before Mr. Lincoln expressed to me his 
satisfaction that he was not to take part in the argument. 
So many and so deep were the questions involved that he 
realized he had not given the subject sufficient study to have 
done himself justice. 

"The court-room, which during the first day or two was 
well filled, greatly thinned out as the argument proceeded 
day after day. But as the crowd diminished, Mr. Lincoln's 
interest in the case increased. He appeared entirely to forget 
himself, and at times, rising from his chair, walked back and 
forth in the open space of the court-room, as though he were 
in his own office, pausing to listen intently as one point after 
another was clearly made out in our favor. He manifested 
such delight in countenance and unconscious action that its 
effect on the judges, one of whom at least already highly re- 
spected him, was evidently stronger than any set speech of 


his could possibly have been. The impression produced on 
the judges was evidently that Mr. Lincoln was thoroughly 
convinced of the justice of our side, and anxious that we 
should prevail, not merely on account of his interest in his 
clients, but because he thought our case was just and should 

"The final summing up on our side was by Mr. Stanton; 
and though he took but about three hours in its delivery, 
he had devoted as many, if not more, weeks to its prepara- 
tion. It was very able, and Mr. Lincoln was throughout the 
whole of it a rapt listener. Mr. Stanton closed his speech in 
a flight of impassioned eloquence. Then the court adjourned 
for the day, and Mr. Lincoln invited me to take a long walk 
with him. For block after block he walked rapidly forward, 
not saying a word, evidently deeply dejected. 

"At last he turned suddenly to me, exclaiming, 'Emerson, 
I am going home/ A pause. T am going home to study 

" 'Why/ I exclaimed, 'Mr. Lincoln, you stand at the head 
of the bar in Illinois now ! What are you talking about ?' 

" 'Ah, yes/ he said, T do occupy a good position there, 
and I think that I can get along with the way things are 
done there now. But these college-trained men, who have 
devoted their whole lives to study, are coming West, don't 
you see ? And they study their cases as we never do. They 
have got as far as Cincinnati now. They will soon be in 
Illinois/ Another long pause; then stopping and turning 
toward me, his countenance suddenly assuming that look of 
strong determination which those who knew him best some- 
times saw upon his face, he exclaimed, T am going home to 
study law ! I am as good as any of them, and when they get 
out to Illinois I will be ready for them/ " 

The fee which Lincoln received in the McCormick case, in- 
cluding the retainer, which was five hundred dollars — the 
largest retainer ever received by Lincoln — amounted to 
nearly two thousand dollars. Except the sum paid him by 
the Illinois Central Railroad it was probably the largest fee 
he ever received. The two sums came to him about the same 


time, and undoubtedly helped to tide over the rather un- 
fruitful period, from a financial standpoint which followed 
- — the period of his contest with Douglas for the Senate. 
Lincoln never made money. From 1850 to i860 his income 
averaged from two thousand to three thousand dollars a 
year. In the forties it was considerably less. The fee-book 
of Lincoln and Herndon for 1847 shows total earnings of 
only fifteen hundred dollars. The largest fee entered was 
one of one hundred dollars. There are several of fifty dol- 
lars, a number of twenty, more of ten, still more of five, and 
a few of three dollars. 

But Lincoln's fees were as a rule smaller than his clients 
expected or his fellow lawyers approved of. Mr. Abraham 
Brokaw of Bloomington, Illinois, tells the following story 
illustrating Lincoln's idea of a proper fee. One of Mr. Bro- 
kaw's neighbors had borrowed about $500.00 from him and 
given his note. When it became due the man refused to pay. 
Action was brought, and the sheriff levied on the property 
of the debtor and finally collected the entire debt; but at 
about that time the sheriff was in need of funds and used 
the money collected. When Brokaw demanded it from him 
he was unable to pay it and was found to be insolvent. 
Thereupon Brokaw employed Stephen A. Douglas to sue the 
sureties on the official bond of the sheriff. Douglas brought 
the suit and soon collected the claim. But Douglas was at 
that time in the midst of a campaign for Congress and the 
funds were used by him with the expectation of being able 
to pay Brokaw later. However, he neglected the matter 
and went to Washington without making any settlement. 
Brokaw, although a life-long and ardent Democrat and a 
great admirer of Douglas, was a thrifty German and 
did not propose to lose sight of his money. After fruit- 
lessly demanding the money from Douglas, Brokaw went 
to David Davis, then in general practice at Blooming- 


ton, told him the circumstances and asked him to under* 
take the collection of the money from Douglas. Davis pro- 
tested that he could not do it, that Douglas was a personal 
friend and a brother lawyer and Democrat and it would be 
very disagreeable for him to have anything to do with the 
matter. He finally said to Brokaw, "You wait until the next 
term of court and Lincoln will be here. He would like noth- 
ing better than to have this claim for collection. I will intro- 
duce you to him and I have no doubt he will undertake it." 
Shortly after, Brokaw was presented to Lincoln, stated his 
case and engaged his services. Lincoln promptly wrote 
Douglas, still at Washington, that he had the claim for col- 
lection and that he must insist upon prompt payment. Doug- 
las, very indignant, wrote directly to Brokaw that he thought 
the placing of the claim in Lincoln's hands a gross outrage, 
that he and Brokaw were old friends and Democrats and 
that Brokaw ought not to place any such weapon in the 
hands of such an Abolitionist opponent as Lincoln and if he 
could not wait until Douglas returned he should at least have 
placed the claim for collection in the hands of a Democrat. 
Brokaw's thrift again controlled and he sent Douglas' letter 
to Lincoln. Thereupon Lincoln placed the claim in the hands 
of "Long" John Wentworth, then a Democratic member of 
Congress from Chicago Wentworth called upon Douglas 
and insisted upon payment, which shortly after was made, 
and Brokaw at last received his money. "And what do you 
suppose Lincoln charged me?" Brokaw says in telling the 
story. After hearing a few guesses he answers, "He charged 
me exactly $3.50 for collecting nearly $600.00." 

Such charges were felt by the lawyers of the Eighth Cir- 
cuit, with some reason, to be purely Quixotic. They pro- 
tested and argued; but Lincoln went on serenely charging 
what he thought his services worth, Ward Lamon who was 
one of Lincoln's numerous circuit partners says that he and 


Lincoln frequently fell out on the matter of fees. On one oc- 
casion Lamon was particularly incensed. He had charged 
and received a good sized fee for a case which the two had 
tried together and won. When Lamon offered Lincoln his 
share he refused it. The fee was too large, he said, part of it 
must be refunded and he would not accept a cent until part 
of it had been refunded. Judge Davis heard of this transac- 
tion. He was himself a shrewd money-maker, never hesi- 
tating to take all he could legally get and he felt strong dis- 
gust at this disinterested attitude about money. Calling 
Lincoln to him the judge scolded roundly. ''You are pau- 
perizing this court, Mr. Lincoln, you are ruining your fel- 
lows. Unless you quit this ridiculous policy, we shall all 
have to go to farming." But not even the ire of the bench 
moved Lincoln. 

If a fee was not paid, Lincoln did not believe in suing for 
it. Mr. Herndon says that he would consent to be swindled 
before he would contest a fee. The case of the Illinois Cen- 
tral railroad, however, was an exception to this rule. He was 
careless in accounts, never entering anything on the book. 
When a fee was paid to him, he simply divided the money 
into two parts, one of which he put into his pocket, and the 
other into an envelope which he labelled "Herndon's half." 
Lincoln's whole theory of the conduct of a lawyer in regard 
to money is summed up in the "notes" for a law lecture 
which he left among his papers : 

" The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere 
question of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, 
fuller justice is done to both lawyer and client. An ex- 
orbitant fee should never be claimed. As a general rule never 
take your whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small 
retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a 
common mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case, 
as if something was still in prospect for you, as well as for 
your client. And when you lack interest in the case the 


job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the perform- 
ance. Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance. 
Then you will feel that you are working for something, and 
you are sure to do your work faithfully and well. Never sell 
a fee note — at least not before the consideration service is 
performed. It leads to negligence and dishonesty — negli- 
gence by losing interest in the case, and dishonesty in re- 
fusing to refund when you have allowed the consideration 
to fail." 

If a client was poor, and Lincoln's sympathies were 
aroused, he not infrequently refused pay. There are a few 
well authenticated cases of his offering his services to those 
whom he believed he could help, stipulating when he did it 
that he would make no charge. The best known example of 
this is the Armstrong murder case. 

William, or "Duff" Armstrong, as he was generally 
called, was the son of Lincoln's New Salem friends, Jack 
and Hannah Armstrong. In August, 1857, Duff and a num- 
ber of his mates had joined a crowd of ruffians who had 
gathered on the outskirts of a camp-meeting held near Ha- 
vana, in Macon county. He had drunk heavily for some 
days, and, finally, in a broil on the night of August 29, had 
beaten a comrade, one Metzker, who had provoked him to a 
fight. That same night Metzker was hit with an ox-yoke 
by another drunken reveller, Norris by name. Three days 
later he died. Both Armstrong and Norris were arrested. 
Marks of two blows were on the victim, either of which 
might have killed him. That Norris had dealt one was 
proved. Did Armstrong deal the other? He claimed he 
had used nothing but his fists in the broil ; but both the marks 
on Metzker were such as must have been made by some in- 
strument. The theory was developed that one blow was 
£rom a slung-shot used by Armstrong, and that he and Nor- 
ris had acted in concert, deliberately planning to murder 
Metzker. Outraged by the cruelty of the deed, the whole 


countryside demanded the punishment of the prisoners. Just 
at the time that Armstrong was thrown into prison his father 
died, his last charge to his wife Hannah being, "Sell every- 
thing you have and clear Duff." True to her trust, Hannah 
engaged two lawyers of Havana, both of whom are still liv- 
ing, to defend her boy. Anxious lest the violence of public 
feeling should injure Duff's chances, the lawyers secured a 
change of venue to Cass county, their client remaining in 
prison until spring. Norris, in the meantime, was convicted, 
and sentenced to eight years in the penitentiary. 

When the lawyers and witnesses assembled in Beards- 
town, May, 1858, for Armstrong's trial, it happened that 
Lincoln was attending court in the town. At that moment 
he was, after Stephen A. Douglas, the most conspicuous 
man in Illinois. His future course in politics was a source of 
interest in the East as well as the West. The coming con- 
test with Douglas for the senatorship — for it was already 
probable that he would be the candidate in the convention 
which was only a month away — was causing him intense 
anxiety. Yet occupied as he was with his profession, and 
harassed by the critical political situation, he did not hesitate 
an instant when Hannah Armstrong came to him for advice. 
Going to her lawyers, he said he should like to assist them. 
They, of course, were glad of his aid, and he at once took the 
case in hand. His first care was the selection of a jury. Not 
knowing the neighborhood well, he could not discriminate 
closely as to individuals ; but he took pains, as far as he could 
control the choice, to have only young men chosen, believing 
that they would be more favorable to the prisoner. A sur- 
viving witness in the case estimates that the average age of 
the jury was not over twenty-three years. 

The jury empanelled, the examination of witnesses seems 
to have been conducted, on behalf of the defence chiefly by 
Lincoln. Many of the witnesses bore familiar names. Some 


were sons of "Clary's Grove Boys," and Lincoln had known 
their fathers. "The witnesses were kept out of the court- 
room until called to testify," says William A. Douglas. "I 
happened to be the first witness called, and so heard the 
whole trial. When William Killian was called to the stand, 
Lincoln asked him his name. 

" 'William Killian/ was the reply. 

" 'Bill Killian/ Lincoln repeated in a familiar way; 'tell 
me, are you a son of old Jake Killian ?' 

" 'Yes, sir/ answered the witness. 

" 'Well/ said Lincoln, somewhat aside, 'you are a smart 
boy if you take after your dad/ " 

As the trial developed it became evident that there could 
have been no collusion between Armstrong and Norris, but 
there was strong evidence that Armstrong had used a slung- 
shot. The most damaging evidence was that of one Allen, 
who swore that he had seen Armstrong strike Metzker about 
ten or eleven o'clock in the evening. When asked how he 
could see, he answered that the moon shone brightly. Under 
Lincoln's questioning he repeated the statement until it was 
impossible that the jury should forget it. With Allen's testi- 
mony unimpeached, conviction seemed certain. 

Lincoln's address to the jury was full of genuine pathos. 
It was not as a hired attorney that he was there, he said, but 
to discharge a debt of friendship. "Uncle Abe," says Duff 
Armstrong himself, "did his best talking when he told the 
jury what true friends my father and mother had been to 
him in the early days. . . . He told how he used to go 
out to 'Jack' Armstrong's and stay for days; how kind 
mother was to him ; and how, many a time, he had rocked me 
to sleep in the old cradle." 

But Lincoln was not relying on sympathy alone to win his 
case. In closing he reviewed the evidence, showing that all 
depended on Allen's testimony, and this he said be could 


prove to be false. Allen never saw Armstrong strike Metz- 
ker by the light of the moon, for at the hour when he said 
he saw the fight, between ten and eleven o'clock, the moon 
was not in the heavens. Then producing an almanac, he 
passed it to the judge and jury. The moon, which was on 
that night only in its first quarter, had set before midnight. 
This unexpected overthrow of the testimony by which Lin- 
coln had taken care that the jury should be most deeply im- 
pressed, threw them into confusion. There was a complete 
change of feeling. Lincoln saw it ; and as he finished his ad- 
dress, and the jury left the room, turning to the boy's 
mother, he said, "Aunt Hannah, your son will be free before 

Lincoln had not misread his jury. Duff Armstrong was 
discharged as not guilty. 

There has long been a story current that the dramatic in- 
troduction of the almanac, by which certainly the audience 
and jury were won, was a pure piece of trickery on Lincoln's 
part; that the almanac was not one of 1857, but of 1853, in 
which the figure three had been changed throughout to 
seven. The best reply to this charge of forgery is the very 
evident one that it was utterly unnecessary. The almanac 
for August, 1857, shows that the moon was exactly in the 
position where it served Lincoln's client's interests best. He 
did not need to forge an almanac, the one of the period being 
all that he could want. 

Another murder case in which Lincoln defended the ac- 
cused occurred in August, 1859. The victim was a student 
in his own law office, Greek Crafton. The murderet Peachy 
Harrison, was the grandson of Lincoln's old political antago- 
nist, Peter Cartwright. Both young men were connected 
with the best families of the county ; the brother of one was 
married to the sister of the other; they had been life-long 
friends. In an altercation upon some Political question hot 


words were exchanged, and Harrison, beside himseli, 
stabbed Crafton, who three days later died from the wound. 
The best known lawyers of the State were engaged for the 
case. Senator John M. Palmer and General A. McClernand 
were on the side of the prosecution. Among those who rep- 
resented the defendant were Lincoln, Herndon, Logan, and 
Senator Shelby M. Cullom. The tragic pathos of a case 
which involved, as this did, the deepest affections of almost 
an entire community, reached its climax in the appearance 
in court of the venerable Peter Cartwright. No face in Illi- 
nois was better known than his, no life had been spent in a 
more relentless war on evil. Eccentric and aggressive as 
he was, he was honored far and wide ; and when he arose in 
the witness stand, his white hair crowned with this cruel sor- 
row, the most indifferent spectator felt that his examination 
would be unbearable. It fell to Lincoln to question Cart- 
wright. With the rarest gentleness he began to put his ques- 

"How long have you known the prisoner?" 

Cartwright's head dropped on his breast for a moment; 
then straightening himself, he passed his hand across his 
eyes and answered in a deep, quavering voice : 

"I have known him since a babe, he laughed and cried on 
my knee." 

The examination ended by Lincoln drawing from the wit- 
ness the story of how Crafton had said to him, just before 
his death : "I am dying ; I will soon part with all I love on 
earth, and I want you to say to my slayer that I forgive him. 
I want to leave this earth with a forgiveness of all who have 
in any way injured me." 

This examination made a profound impression on the 
jury. Lincoln closed his argument by picturing the scene 
anew, appealing to the jury to practice the same forgiving 
spirit that the murdered man had shown on his death-bed. 


It was undoubtedly to his handling of the grandfather's evi- 
dence that Harrison's acquittal was due. 

A class of legal work which Lincoln enjoyed particularly 
was that in which mathematical or mechanical problems were 
involved. He never lost interest in his youthful pot-boiling 
profession of surveying, and would go out himself to make 
sure of boundaries if a client's case required particular in- 
vestigation. Indeed, he was generally recognized by his fel- 
low lawyers as an authority in surveying, and as late as 1859 
his opinion on a disputed question was sought by a conven- 
tion of surveyors who had met in Springfield. One of the 
most interesting cases involving mechanical problems which 
Lincoln ever argued was that of the Rock Island Bridge. It 
was not, however, the calculations he used which made it 
striking. The case was a dramatic episode in the war long 
waged by the Mississippi against the plains beyond. For 
decades the river had been the willing burden-bearer of the 
West. Now, however, the railroad had come. The Rock 
Island road had even dared to bridge the stream to carry 
away the traffic which the river claimed. 

In May, 1856, a steamboat struck one of the piers of the 
bridge, and was wrecked and burned. One pier of the bridge 
was also destroyed. The boat owners sued the railroad com- 
pany. The suit was the beginning of the long and violent 
struggle for commercial supremacy between St. Louis and 
Chicago. In Chicago it was commonly believed that the St. 
Louis Chamber of Commerce had bribed the captain of the 
boat to run upon the pier ; and it was said that later, when the 
bridge itself was burned, the steamers gathered near and 
whistled for joy. The case was felt to involve the future 
course of western commerce ; and when it was called in Sep- 
tember, 1857, at Chicago, people crowded there from all over 
the West. Norman B. Judd, afterwards so prominent in the 
politics of the State, was the attornev of the road, and he en- 



gaged Lincoln, among others, as counsel. Lincoln made an 
address to the jury which those who remember it declare to 
have been one of his strongest legal arguments. 

" The two points relied upon by the opponents of the 
bridge," says Judge Blodgett of Chicago, " were: 

"First. That the river was the great waterway for the 
commerce of the valley, and could not legally be obstructed 
by a bridge. 

"Second. That this particular bridge was so located with 
reference to the channel of the river at that point as to make 
it a peril to all water craft navigating the river and an un- 
necessary obstruction to navigation. 

"The first proposition had not at that time been directly 
passed upon by the Supreme Court of the United States, al- 
though the Wheeling Bridge case involved the question; but 
the court had evaded a decision upon it, by holding that the 
Wheeling Bridge was so low as to be an unnecessary obstruc- 
tion to the use of the river by steamboats. The discussion of 
the first proposition on the part of the bridge company de- 
volved mainly upon Mr. Abraham Lincoln. 

"I listened with much interest to his argument on this 
point, and while I was not impressed by it as a specially elo- 
quent effort (as the word eloquent is generally understood), 
I have always considered it as one of the ablest efforts I ever 
heard from Mr. Lincoln at the bar. His illustrations were 
apt and forcible, his statements clear and logical, and his rea- 
sons in favor of the policy (and necessarily the right) to 
bridge the river, and thereby encourage the settlement and 
building up of the vast area of fertile country to the west of 
it, were broad and statesmanlike. 

"The pith of his argument was in his statement that one 
man had as good a right to cross a river as another had to 
sail up or down it; that these were equal and mutual rights 
which must be exercised so as not to interfere with each 
other, like the right to cross a street or highway and the right 
to pass along it. From this undeniable right to cross the 
river he then proceeded to discuss the means for crossing. 
Must it always be by canoe or ferryboat ? Must the products 
of all the boundless fertile country lying west of the river for 


all time be compelled to stop on its western bank, be unloaded 
from the cars and loaded upon a boat, and after the transit 
across the river, be reloaded into cars on the other side, to 
continue their journey east? In this connection he drew a 
vivid picture of the future of the great West lying beyond 
the river, and argued that the necessities of commerce de- 
manded that the bridges across the river be a conceded right, 
which the steamboat interests ought not to be allowed to 
successfully resist, and thereby stay the progress of develop- 
ment and civilization in the region to the west. 

" While I cannot recall a word or sentence of the argu- 
ment, I well remember its effect on all who listened to it, and 
the decision of the court fully sustained the right to bridge so 
long as it did not unnecessarily obstruct navigation." 

All the papers in regard to the trial are supposed to have 
been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, but the speech, 
which was reported by Congressman Hitt of Illinois, at that 
time court stenographer, was published on September 24, 
1857, in the Chicago " Daily Press," afterwards united with 
the " Tribune." 

According to this report the first part of the speech was 
devoted to the points Judge Blodgett outlines; the second 
part was given to a careful explanation of the currents of the 
Mississippi at the point where the bridge crossed. Lincoln 
succeeded in showing that had the pilot of the boat been as 
familiar as he ought to have been with the river, he could 
easily have prevented the accident. His argument was full of 
nice mathematical calculations clearly put, and was marked 
by perfect candor. Indeed, the honesty with which he ad- 
mitted the points made by the opposite counsel caused consid- 
erable alarm to some of his associates. Mrs. Norman B. Judd 
(Mr. Judd was the attorney of the road) says that Mr. Jo- 
seph B. Knox, who was also engaged with Mr. Lincoln in 
the defence, dined at her house the day that Lincoln made his 
speech. " He sat down at the dinner table in great excite- 


ment," writes Mrs. Judd, "saying, 'Lincoln has lost the case 
for us. The admissions he made in regard to the currents in 
the Mississippi at Rock Island and Moline will convince the 
court that a bridge at that point will always be a serious and 
constant detriment to navigation on the river/ 'Wait until 
you hear the conclusion of his speech/ replied Mr. Judd; 
'you will find his admission is a strong point instead of a 
weak one, and on it he will found a strong argument that will 
satisfy you/ " And as it proved, Mr. Judd was right. 

The few cases briefly outlined here show something of the 
range of Lincoln's legal work. They show that not only his 
friends like Hannah Armstrong believed in his power with a 
jury, but that great corporations like the Illinois Central 
Railroad were willing to trust their affairs in his hands ; that 
he was not only a "jury lawyer," as has been often stated, 
but trusted when it came to questions of law pure and sim- 
ple. If this study of his cases were continued, it would only 
be to accumulate evidence to prove that Lincoln was consid- 
ered by his contemporaries one of the best lawyers of Illinois. 

It is worth notice, too, that he made his reputation as a 
lawyer and tried his greatest cases before his debate with 
Douglas gave him a national reputation. It was in 1855 that 
the Illinois Central engaged him first as counsel ; in 1855 that 
he went to Cincinnati on the McCormick case; in 1857 that 
he tried the Rock Island Bridge case. Thus his place was 
won purely on his legal ability unaided by political prestige. 
His success came, too, in middle life. Lincoln was forty 
years old in 1849, when he abandoned politics definitely, as 
he thought, for the law. He tried his greatest cases when he 
was frfMai forty-five to forty-eight. 



From 1849 t0 ^54 Abraham Lincoln gave almost his en- 
tire time to his profession. Politics received from him only 
the attention which any public spirited citizen without per- 
sonal ambition should give. He kept close watch upon Fed- 
eral, State and local affairs. He was active in the efforts 
made in Illinois in 1851 to secure a more thorough party 
organization. In 1852 he was on the Scott electoral ticket 
and did some canvassing. But this was all. He was yearly 
becoming more absorbed in his legal work, losing more and 
more of his old inclination for politics, when in May, 
1854, the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused him 
as he had never been before in all his life. The Missouri 
Compromise was the second in that series of noble provis- 
ions for making new territory free territory, which liberty- 
loving men have wrested from the United States Congress, 
whenever the thirst for expansion has seized this country. 
The first of these was the " Ordinance of 1787," prohibiting 
slavery in all the great Northwest Territory. The second 
the Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, was the result of 
a struggle to keep the Louisiana Purchase free. It pro- 
vided that Missouri might come in as a slave State if slavery- 
was never allowed north of 36 30' north latitude. 
The next great expansion of the United States after the 
Louisiana Purchase resulted from the annexation of Texas, 
and of the territory acquired by the Mexican War. The 
North was determined that this new territory should be 



free. The South wanted it for slaves. The struggle be- 
tween them threatened the Union for a time, but it was 
adjusted by the compromise of 1850, in which, according 
to Mr. Lincoln's summing up, " the South got their new 
fugitive-slave law, and the North got California (by far the 
best part of our acquisition from Mexico) as a free State. 
The South got a provision that New Mexico and Utah, 
when admitted as States, may come in with or without 
slavery, as they may then choose; and the North got the 
slave-trade abolished in the District of Columbia. The 
North got the western boundary of Texas thrown farther 
back eastward than the South desired; but, in turn, they 
gave Texas ten millions of dollars with which to pay her old 

For three years matters were quiet. Then Nebraska 
sought territorial organization. Now by the Missouri 
Compromise slavery was forbidden in that section of the 
Union, but in spite of this fact Stephen A. Douglas, 
then a member of the Senate of the United States, 
introduced a bill to give Nebraska and Kansas the de- 
sired government, to which later he added an amend- 
ment repealing the Missouri Compromise and permitting 
the people who should settle in the new territories to reject 
or establish slavery as they should see fit. It was the passage 
of this bill which brought Abraham Lincoln from the court 
room to the stump. His friend Richard Yates was run- 
ning for re-election to Congress. Lincoln began to speak 
for him, but in accepting invitations he stipulated -that it 
should be against the Kansas-Nebraska bill that he talk. 
His earnestness surprised his friends. Lincoln was coming 
back into politics, they said, and when Douglas, the author 
of the repeal, was announced to speak in Springfield in Oc- 
tober of 1854, they called on Lincoln to meet him. 

Douglas was having* a serious struggle to reconcile his 


Illinois constituency. All the free sentiment of the State 
had been bitterly aroused by his part in the repeal of the 
Missouri Compromise, and when he first returned to Illinois 
it looked as if he would not be given even a hearing. Indeed, 
when he first attempted to speak in Chicago, September 1, he 
was hooted from the platform. With every day in the 
State, however, he won back his friends, so great was his 
power over men, and he was beginning to arouse something 
of his old enthusiasm when he went <to Springfield to speak 
at the annual State Fair. There was a great crowd present 
from all parts of the State, and Douglas spoke for three 
hours. When he closed it was announced that Lincoln would 
answer him the next day. Lincoln's friends expected him to 
do well in his reply, but his speech was a surprise even to 
those who knew him best. It was profound, finished, vigor- 
ous, eloquent. When had he mastered the history of the sla- 
very question so completely ? they asked each other. "The 
anti-Nebraska speech of Mr. Lincoln," said the Springfield 
" Journal " the next day, " was the profoundest, in our 
opinion that he has made in his whole life. He felt upon 
his soul the truths burn which he uttered, and all present felt 
that he was true to his own soul. His feelings once or twice 
swelled within, and came near stifling utterance. He quiv- 
ered with emotion. The whole house was as still as death. 
He attacked the Nebraska bill with unusual warmth and 
energy; and all felt that a man of strength was its enemy, 
and that he intended to blast it if he could by strong and 
manly efforts. He was most successful, and the house ap- 
proved the glorious triumph of truth by loud and continued 

The vigor and earnestness of Lincoln's speech aroused the 
crowd to such enthusiasm that Senator Douglas felt obliged 
to reply to him the next day. These speeches of October 3, 
4 and 5, 1854, form really the first of the series of Lincoln- 


Douglas Debates, They proved conclusively to the anti- 
Nebraska politicians in Illinois that Lincoln was to be their 
leader in the fight they had begun against the extension of 

Although the speech of October 4 was not preserved, we 
know from Paul Selby, at that time editor of an indepen- 
dent paper in Jacksonville, Illinois, which had been working 
hard against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, that 
Lincoln's speech at Springfield was practically the same as 
one delivered twelve days later at Peoria in reply to Douglas. 
Of this latter a full report was preserved. 

In his reply at Peoria, Lincoln began by a brief but suffi- 
cient resume of the efforts of the North to apply the Declara- 
tion of Independence to all new territory which it acquired, 
and failing in that to provide for the sake of peace a series 
of compromises reserving as much territory as possible to 
freedom. He showed that the Kansas-Nebraska bill was a 
direct violation of one of the greatest of these solemn com- 
promises. This he declared was " wrong." " Wrong in its 
direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and 
wrong in its prospective principle, allowing it to spread to 
every other part of the wide world where men can be found 
inclined to take it. This declared indifference, but, as I 
must think, covert real zeal, for the spread of slavery, I can- 
not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice 
of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican 
example of its just influence in the world; enables the en- 
emies of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as 
hypocrites; causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our 
sincerity; and especially because it forces so many men 
among ourselves into an open war with the very funda- 
mental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the Declaration 
of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle 
of action but self-interest." 


Disavowing all " prejudice against the Southern people/' 
he generously declared : 

" They are just what we would be in their situation. If 
slavery did not exist among them, they would not introduce 
it. If it did now exist among us, we should not instantly 
give it up. . . I surely will not blame them for not doing 
what I should not know how to do myself. If all earthly 
power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the 
existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all 
the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native 
land. But a moment's reflection would convince me that 
whatever of high hope .... there may be in this in 
the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they 
were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the 
next ten days, and there are not surplus shipping and sur- 
plus money enough to carry them there in many times ten 
days. ... I think I would not hold one in slavery at 
any rate, yet the point is not clear enough for me to de- 
nounce people upon It does seem to me 

that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted, but 
for their tardiness in this I will not undertake to judge our 
brethren of the South. . . . The law which forbids the 
bringing of slaves from Africa, and that which has so long 
forbidden the taking of them into Nebraska, can hardly be 
distinguished on any moral principle, and the repeal of the 
former could find quite as plausible excuses as that of the 

Taking up the arguments by which the repeal of the 
Missouri Compromise was justified, he answered them one 
by one with clearness and a great array of facts. The chief 
of these arguments was that the repeal was in the interest 
of the " sacred right of self-government " that the people 
of Nebraska had a right to govern themselves as they chose, 
voting for or against slavery as they pleased. 

" The doctrine of self-government is right," Lincoln said, 
" absolutely and eternally right, but it has no just applica- 
tion as here attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that 


whether it has such application depends upon whether a 
negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, in that case 
he who is a man may as a matter of self-government do just 
what he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it 
not to that extent a total destruction of self-government to 
say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white 
man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he 
governs himself and also governs another man, that is more 
than self-government — that is despotism. If the negro is 
a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ' all men 
are created equal,' and that there can be no moral right in 
connection with one man's making a slave of another. 

" Judge Douglas frequently, with bitter irony and sar- 
casm, paraphrases our argument by saying : * The white 
people of Nebraska are good enough to govern themselves, 
but they are not good enough to govern a few miserable 
negroes ! ' 

" Well ! I doubt not that the people of Nebraska are and 
will continue to be as good as the average of people else- 
where. I do not say the contrary. What I do say is that 
no man is good enough to govern another man without that 
other's consent. I say this is the leading principle, the sheet- 
anchor of American republicanism. ,, 

This Peoria speech, which is very long, is particularly in- 
teresting to students of Mr. Lincoln's speeches, because in it 
is found the germ of many of the arguments which he elab- 
orated in the next six years and used with tremendous effect. 

With the Peoria speech Douglas had had enough of Lin- 
coln as an antagonist, and he made a compact with him that 
neither should speak again in the campaign. It was char- 
acteristic of Douglas that on his way to Chicago he should 
stop and deliver a speech at Princeton ! 

But though Lincoln had temporarily withdrawn from the 
stump he was by no means abandoning the struggle. The 
iniquity of the Kansas-Nebraska bill grew greater to him 
every day. He meant to fight it to the end and he wanted to 
go where he could fight it directly. He became a candidate 


for the General Assembly of Illinois from Sangamon County 
and was elected by a large majority in November. A little 
later he saw an opportunity for a larger position. Al- 
though Illinois was strongly Democratic, the revolt against 
the Nebraska bill had driven from the party a number of 
men, members of the Legislature who had signified their 
determination to vote only for an Anti-Nebraska Senator. 
This gave the Whigs a chance, and several candidates of- 
fered themselves — among them Lincoln. Resigning from 
the Legislature (members of the Legislature could not be- 
come candidates for the senatorship), he began his elec- 
tioneering in the frank Western style of those days by re- 
questing his friends to support him. 

" I have really got it into my head to try to be United 
States Senator/' he wrote his friend Gillespie, " and, if I 
could have your support, my chances would be reasonably 
good. But I know, and acknowledge, that you have as just 
claims to the place as I have; and therefore I cannot ask you 
to yield to me, if you are thinking of becoming a candidate 
yourself. If, however, you are not, then I should like to be 
remembered affectionately by you; and also to have you 
make a mark for me with the Anti-Nebraska members, down 
your way." 

He sent a large number of similar letters to friends, and 
by the first of January, when the Legislature re-assembled, 
he felt his chances of election were good. " I have more 
committals than any other man," he wrote his friend Wash- 
burne. Nevertheless he failed of the election. Just how he 
explained to Washburne early in February : 

" I began with 44 votes, Shields (Democratic) 41, and 
Trumbull (Anti-Nebraska) 5, — yet Trumbull was elected. 
In fact, 47 different members voted for me, — getting three 
new ones on the second ballot, and losing four old ones. 
How came my 47 to yield to Trumbull's 5 ? It was Gov- 


^rnor Matteson's work. He has been secretly a candidate 
ever since (before, even) the fall election. All the members 
round about the canal were Anti-Nebraska, but were never- 
theless nearly all Democrats and old personal friends of his. 
His plan was to privately impress them with the belief that 
he was as good Anti-Nebraska as any one else — at least 
could be secured to be so by instructions, which could be 
easily passed 

"The Nebraska men, of course, were not for Matteson; 
but when they found they could elect no avowed Nebraska 
man, they tardily determined to let him get whomever of our 
men he could, by whatever means he could, and ask him no 


The Nebraska men were very confident of the election of 
Matteson, though denying that he was a candidate, and we 
very much believing also that they would elect him. But 
they wanted first to make a show of good faith to Shields 
by voting for him a few times, and our secret Matteson men 
also wanted to make a show of good faith by voting with us 
a few times. So we led off. On the seventh ballot, I think, 
the signal was given to the Nebraska men to turn to Matte- 
son, which they acted on to a man, with one exception. . 
Next ballot the remaining Nebraska man and one pretended 
Anti went over 'to 'him, giving him 46. The next still an- 
other, giving him 47, wanting only three of an election. In 
the meantime our friends, with a view of detaining our ex- 
pected bolters, had been turning from me to Trumbull till he 
had risen to 35 and I had been reduced to 15. These would 
never desert me except by my direction ; but I became satis- 
fied that if we could prevent Matteson's election one or 
two ballots more, we could not possibly do so a single ballot 
after my friends should begin to return to me from Trum- 
bull. So I determined to strike at once, and accordingly ad- 
vised my remaining friends to go for him, which they did 
and elected him on the tenth ballot. 

" Such is the way the thing was done. I think you would 

have done the same under the circumstances 

I could have headed off every combination and been elected, 
had it not been for Matteson's double game — and his defeat 
now gives me more pleasure than my own gives me pain. 


On the whole, it is perhaps as well for our general cause that 
Trumbull is elected. The Nebraska men confess that they 
hate it worse than anything that could have happened. It 
is a great consolation to see them worse whipped than I 

Not only had Lincoln made the leading orator of the 
Nebraska cause cry enough, he had by his quick wit and his 
devotion to the cause secured an Anti-Nebraska Senator for 
the State. 

Although for the time being campaigning was over, Lin- 
coln by no means dropped the subject. The struggle between 
North and South over the settlement of Kansas grew every 
day more bitter. Violence was beginning, and it was evident 
that if the people of the new territory should vote to make 
the State free it would be impossible to enforce the decision 
without bloodshed. Lincoln watched the developments with 
a growing determination never to submit to the repeal of the 
Missouri Compromise. He would advocate its restoration 
so long as Kansas remained a territory, and if it ever sought 
to enter the Union as a slave State he would oppose it. He 
discussed the subject incessantly with his friends as he travel- 
led the circuit; and wrestled with it day and night in soli- 
tude. A new conviction was gradually growing upon him. 
He had long held that slavery was wrong but that it could 
not be touched in the State where it was recognized by the 
Constitution; all that the free States could require, in his 
judgment, was that no new territory should be opened to 
slavery. He held that all compromises adjusting difficulties 
between the North and South on the slavery question were as 
sacred as the Constitution. Now he saw the most important 
of them all violated. Was it possible to devise a compromise 
which would settle forever the conflicting interests? He 
turned over the question continually. Judge T. Lyle Dickey 
of Illinois once told the Hon. William Pitt Kellogg that 


when the excitement over the Kansas-Nebraska bill first 
broke out, he was with Lincoln and several friends at- 
tending court. One evening several persons, including him- 
self and Lincoln, were discussing the slavery question. Judge 
Dickey contended that slavery was an institution, which the 
Constitution recognized, and which could not be disturbed. 
Lincoln argued that ultimately slavery must become extinct. 
" After a while/' said Judge Dickey, " we went upstairs to 
bed. There were two beds in our room, and I remember that 
Lincoln sat up in his night shirt on the edge of the bed 
arguing the point with me. At last, we went to sleep. Early 
in the morning I woke up and there was Lincoln half sitting 
up in bed. ' Dickey,' he said, ' I tell you this nation 
cannot exist half slave and half free. ' Oh, Lincoln,' said 
I, ' go to sleep.' " 

As the months went on this idea took deeper root, and 
in August, 1855, we find it expressed in a letter to George 
Robertson of Kentucky : " Our political problem now is, 
' Can we as a nation continue together permanently — for- 
ever — half slave and half free? ' The problem is too mighty 
for me — may God, in his mercy, superintend the solution." 

Not only was he beginning to see that the Union could 
not exist "divided against itself," he was beginning to see 
that in order to fight effectively against the repeal of the 
Missouri Compromise and the admission of Kansas as a 
slave State, he might be obliged to abandon the Whigs. All 
his life he had been a loyal Henry Clay Whig, ardent in his 
devotion to the party, sincerely attached to its principles. 
His friends were of that party, and never had a man's party 
friends been more willing than his to aid his ambition. But 
the Whigs were afraid of the Anti-Nebraska agitation. Was 
he being forced from his party ? He hardly knew. " I 
think I am a Whig," he wrote his friend Speed, who had 
inquired where he stood, " but others say there are no 


Whigs and that I am an Abolitionist." This was in August, 
1855. The events of the next few months showed him that 
he must stand by the body of men of all parties — Whig, 
Democratic, Abolition, Free Soil — who opposed the repeal 
of the Missouri Compromise, and were slowly uniting into 
the new Republican party to fight it. 

The first decisive step to organize these elements in Illi- 
nois was an editorial convention held on February 22, 1856, 
at Decatur. One of the editors interested, Paul Selby, re- 
lates the history of the convention in an unpublished manu- 
script on the " Formation of the Republican Party in Illi- 
nois," from which the following account is quoted : 

" This movement, first suggested by ' The Morgan Jour- 
nal ' at Jacksonville, having received the approval of a con- 
siderable number of the Anti-Nebraska papers of the State, 
resulted in the issue of the following call : 

" ' Editorial Convention. — All editors in Illinois opposed 
to the Nebraska bill are requested to meet in Convention at 
Decatur, Illinois, on the 226. of February next, for the pur- 
pose of making arrangements for organizing the Anti-Ne~ 
braska forces in this State for the coming contest. All edi- 
tors favoring the movement will please forward a copy of 
their paper containing their approval to the office of the 
Illinois i State Chronicle/ Decatur. 

" Twenty-five papers indorsed the call, but on the day of 
the meeting only about half that number of editors put in 
an appearance. One reason for the small number was the 
fact that, on the night before a heavy snow-storm had fallen 
throughout the State, obstructing the passage of trains on 
the two railroads centering at Decatur. The meeting was 
held in the parlor of the * Cassell House ' — afterwards the 
* Oglesby House/ now called the ' St. Nicholas Hotel/ 
Those present and participating in the opening proceedings, 
as shown by the official report, were: E. C. Dougherty, 
'Register/ Rockford; Charles Faxon, ' Post' Princeton; A. 
N. Ford, ' Gazette/ Lacon ; Thomas J. Pickett, ' Republi- 
can/ Peoria; Virgil Y. Ralston, ' Whig/ Quincy; Charles 


H. Ray, ' Tribune/ Chicago; George Schneider, ' Staats 
Zeitung/ Chicago; Paul Selby, ' Journal/ Jacksonville; B. 
F. Shaw, ' Telegraph/ Dixon; W. J. Usrey, ' Chronicle; 
Decatur, and O. P. Wharton, ' Advertiser/ Rock Island. In 
the organization Paul Selby was made Chairman and W. J. 
Usrey, Secretary, while Messrs. Ralston, Ray, Wharton, 
Dougherty, Prickett and Schneider constituted a Committee 
on Resolutions. The platform adopted as ' a basis of com- 
mon and concerted action ' among the members of the 
new organization, embraced a declaration of principles that 
would be regarded in this day as most conservative Repub- 
licanism, recognizing ' The legal rights of the slave States 
to hold and enjoy their property in slaves under their State 
laws; ' reaffirming the principles of the Declaration of In- 
dependence, with its correlative doctrine that * Freedom is 
national and slavery sectional/ declaring assumption of the 
right to extend slavery on the plea that it is essential to the 
security of the institution ' an invasion of our rights ' which 
* must be resisted/ demanding the restoration of the Mis- 
souri Compromise and ' the restriction of slavery to its 
present authorized limits/ advocating the maintenance of 
' the naturalization laws as they are ' and favoring ' the 
widest tolerance in matters of religion and faith ' (a rebuke 
to Know-Nothingism) ; pledging resistance to assaults upon 
the common school system, and closing with a demand for 
reformation in the administration of the State Government 
as ' second only in importance to the question of slavery 
itself.' Mr. Lincoln was present in Decatur during the day, 
and, although he did not take part in the public deliberations 
of the convention, he was in close conference with the Com- 
mittee on Resolutions, and the impress of his hand is seen in 
the character of the platform adopted. Messrs. Ray and 
Schneider, of the Chicago press, were also influential fac- 
tors in shaping the declaration of principles with which the 
new party in Illinois started on its long career of almost un- 
interrupted success. 

" The day's proceedings ended with a complimentary ban- 
quet given to the editors at the same hotel by the citizens 
of Decatur. Speeches were made in response to toasts by 
Mr. Lincoln, R. J. Oglesby (afterwards Major-General of 


Volunteers and three times Governor of Illinois— then a 
young lawyer of Decatur), Ray of the Chicago ' Tribune,* 
Ralston of the Quincy 'Whig' and others among the editors. 
In the course of his speech, referring to a movement which 
some of the editors present had inaugurated to make him 
the Anti-Nebraska candidate for Governor at the ensuing 
election, Mr. Lincoln spoke (in substance) as follows: 'I 
wish to say why I should not be a candidate. If I should 
be chosen, the Democrats would say it was nothing more 
than an attempt to resurrect the dead body of the old Whig 
party. I would secure the vote of that party and no more, 
and our defeat will follow as a matter of course. But I 
can suggest a name that will secure not only the old Whig 
vote, but enough Anti-Nebraska Democrats to give us the 
victory. That man is Colonel William H. Bissell.' 

" Here Mr. Lincoln again displayed his characteristic un- 
selfishness and sagacity. That he would, at that time, have 
regarded an election to the Governorship of the great State 
of Illinois as an honor not worth contending for, will scarcely 
be presumed. He was seeking more important results, how- 
ever, in the interest of freedom and good government — the 
ending of the political chaos that had prevailed for the past 
two years and the consolidation of the forces opposed to 
slavery extension in a compact political organization. Bis- 
sell had been an officer in the Mexican War with a good 
record; had afterwards, as a member of Congress from the 
Belleville District, opposed the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and 
had refused to be brow-beaten by Jefferson Davis into the 
retraction of statements he had made on the floor of Con- 
gress. As will appear later, he was nominated and Lincoln's 
judgment vindicated by his election and the unification of 
the elements which afterwards composed the Republican 

" One of the last acts of the editorial convention was the 
appointment of a State Central Committee, consisting of 
one member for each Congressional District and two for 
the State at large. Some of the names were suggested by 
Mr. Lincoln, while the others received his approval. . . . 
A supplementary resolution recommended the holding of a 
State Convention at Bloomington* on the 29th of May fol- 


lowing, and requested the committee just appointed to issue 
the necessary call 

" It is a coincidence of some interest that, on the day the 
Illinois editors were in session at Decatur a convention of 
representatives from differ ent States, with a similar object 
in view for the country at large, was in session at Pittsburg, 
Pa. The latter was presided over by the venerable Francis 
P. Blair, of Maryland, while among its most prominent 
members appear such names as those of Governor E. D. 
Morgan of New York, Horace Greeley, Preston King, 
David Wilmot, Oliver P. Morton, Joshua R. Giddings, 
Zachariah Chandler and many others of national reputation. 
A National Committee there appointed called the first Na- 
tional Convention of the Republican party, held at Phila- 
delphia on 'the 17th of June." 

In the interval between the Decatur meeting and the 
Bloomington Convention called for May 29, the excitement 
in the county over Kansas grew almost to a frenzy. The 
new State was in the hands of a pro-slavery mob, her Gov- 
ernor a prisoner, her capital in ruins, her voters intimidated. 
The newspapers were full of accounts of the attack on Sum- 
ner in the United States Senate by Brooks. One of the 
very men who had been expected to be a leader in the 
Bloomington Convention, Paul Selby, was lying at home 
prostrated by a cowardly blow from a political opponent. 
Little wonder then that when the Convention met its mem- 
bers were resolved to take radical action. The convention 
was opened with John M. Palmer, afterwards United States 
Senator, in its chair, and in a very short time it had adopted 
a platform, appointed delegates to the National Convention, 
nominated a State ticket, completed, in short, all the work 
of organizing the Republican Party in Illinois. After this 
work of organizing and nominating was finished, there was 
a call for speeches. The convention felt the need of some 
powerful amalgamating force which would weld its dis- 


cordant elements. In spite of the best intentions of the mem- 
bers, their most manful efforts, they knew in their hearts that 
they were still political enemies, that the Whig was still a 
Whig, the Democrat a Democrat, the Abolitionist an Aboli- 
tionist. Man after man was called to the platform and spoke 
without producing any marked effect, when suddenly there 
was a call raised of a name not on the program — " Lin- 
coln " — ■" Lincoln " — " give us Lincoln ! " The crowd took 
it up and made the hall ring until a tall figure rose in the 
back of the audience and slowly strode down the aisle. As 
he turned to his audience there came gradually a great 
change upon his face. " There was an expression of in- 
tense emotion/' Judge Scott, of Bloomington, once told the 
author. " It was the emotion of a great soul. Even in 
stature he seemed greater. He seemed to realize it was a 
crisis in his life." 

Lincoln, in fact, had come to the parting of the ways in 
his political life, to the moment when he must publicly break 
with his party. For two years he had tried to fight slavery 
extension under the name of a Whig. He had found it 
could not be done, and now in spite of the efforts of his 
conservative friends who had vainly tried to keep him away 
from the Bloomington Convention, he was facing that con- 
vention, was openly acknowledging that henceforth he 
worked with the Republican Party. 

Lincoln's extraordinary human insight and sympathy told 
him as he looked at his audience that what this body of 
splendid, earnest, but groping men needed was to feel that 
they had undertaken a cause of such transcendent value that 
beside it all previous alliances, ambitions and duties were as 
nothing. If he could make them see the triviality of their 
differences as compared with the tremendous principle of the 
new party, he was certain they would go forth Republicans 
in spirit as well as in name. 


He began his speech, then, deeply moved, and with a pro- 
found sense of the importance of the moment. At first 
he spoke slowly and haltingly, but gradually he grew in force 
and intensity until his hearers arose from their chairs and 
with pale faces and quivering lips pressed unconsciously to- 
wards him. Starting from the back of the broad platform 
on which he stood, his hands on liis hips, he slowly advanced 
towards the front, his eyes blazing, his face white with pas- 
sion, his voice resonant with the force of his conviction. 
As he advanced he seemed to his audience fairly to grow, 
and when at the end of a period he stood at the front line of 
the stage, hands still on the hips, head back, raised on his 
tip toes, he seemed like a giant inspired. " At that moment 
he was the 'handsomest man I ever saw," Judge Scott de- 

So powerful was his effect on his audience that men and 
women wept as they cheered and children there that night 
still remember the scene, though at the time they understood 
nothing of its meaning. As he went on there came upon 
the convention the very emotion he sought to arouse. 
" Every one in that before incongruous assembly came to 
feel as one man, to think as one man and to purpose and re- 
solve as one man," says one of his auditors. He 'had made 
every man of them pure Republican. He did something 
more. The indignation which the outrages in Kansas and 
throughout the country had aroused was uncontrolled. Men 
talked passionately of war. It was at this meeting that Lin- 
coln, after firing his bearers by an expression which became 
a watchword of the campaign, " We won't go out of the 
Union and you shan't," poured oil on the wrath of the Illi- 
nois opponents of the Nebraska bill by advising " ballots, not 

Nothing illustrates better the extraordinary power of 
Lincoln's speech at Bloomington than the wav he stirred up 


the newspaper reporters. It was before the stenographer 
had become acclimated in Illinois, though long-hand re- 
ports were regularly taken. Of course, all the leading papers 
of the State leaning towards the new party, had reporters at 
the convention. Among these was Mr. Joseph Medill. 

" It was my journalistic duty," says Mr. Medill, " though 
a delegate to the convention, to make a ' long-hand ' report 
of the speeches delivered for the Chicago ' Tribune/ I did 
make a few paragraphs of what Lincoln said in the first eight 
or ten minutes, but I became so absorbed in his mag- 
netic oratory that I forgot myself and ceased to take notes; 
and joined with the convention in cheering and stamping 
and clapping to the end of his speech. 

" I well remember that after Lincoln sat down and calm 
had succeeded the tempest, I waked out of a sort of hypnotic 
trance, and then thought of my report for the ' Tribune.' 
There was nothing written but an abbreviated introduc- 

" It was some sort of satisfaction to find that I had not 
been ' scooped/ as all the newspaper men present had been 
equally carried away by the excitement caused by the won- 
derful oration and had made no report or sketch of the 

A number of Lincoln's friends, young lawyers, most of 
them, were accustomed to taking notes of speeches, and as 
usual sharpened their pencils as he began. " I attempted for 
about fifteen minutes," says Mr. Herndon, Lincoln's law 
partner, " as was usual with me then to take notes, but at 
the end of that time I threw pen and paper away and lived 
only in the inspiration of the hour." The result of this ex- 
citement was that when the convention was over there was 
no reporter present who had anything for his newspaper. 
They all went home and wrote burning editorials about the 
speech and its great principle, but as to reproducing it they 
could not. Men came to talk of it all over Illinois. They 


realized that it had been a purifying fire for the party, but 
as to what it contained no one could say. Gradually it be- 
came known as Lincoln's " lost speech." From the very 
mystery of it its reputation grew greater as time went on. 

But though the convention so nearly to a man lost its 
head, there was at least one auditor who had enough control 
to pursue his usual habit of making notes of the speeches 
he heard. This was a young lawyer on the same circuit as 
Lincoln, Mr. H. C. Whitney. For some three weeks be- 
fore the convention Lincoln and Whitney had been attend- 
ing court at Danville. They had discussed the political 
situation in the State carefully, and to Whitney Lincoln had 
stated his convictions and determinations. In a way Whit- 
ney had absorbed Lincoln's speech beforehand, as indeed any 
one must have done who was with Lincoln when he was pre- 
paring an address, it being his habit to discuss points and to 
repeat them aloud indifferent to who heard him. Whitney 
had gone to the convention intending to make notes, know- 
ing, as he did, that Lincoln had not written out what he was 
going to say. Fortunately he had a cool enough head to 
keep to his purpose. He made his notes, and on returning 
to Judge Davis's home in Bloomington, where he, with Lin- 
coln and one or two others, were staying, be enlarged them 
wnile the others discussed the speech. These notes Whitney 
kept for many years, always intending to write them out, 
but never attending to it until the author, in 1896, 
learned that he had them and urged bim to expand them. 
This Mr. Whitney did, and the speech was first published in 
" McClure's Magazine " for September, 1896. Mr. Whitney 
does not claim that he has made a full report. He does 
claim that the argument is correct and that in many cases the 
expressions are exact. A few quotations will show any 
one familiar with Lincoln's speeches that Mr. Whitney has 
caught much of their style, for instance, the following : 


" We come — we are here assembled together — to protest 
as well as we can against a great wrong, and to take meas- 
ures, as well as we now can, to make that wrong right; to 
place the nation, as far as it may be possible now, as it was 
before the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; and the plain 
way to do this is to restore the Compromise, and to demand 
and determine that Kansas shall be free! While we affirm, 
and reaffirm, if necessary, our devotions to the principles of 
the Declaration of Independence, let our practical work here 
be limited to the above. We know that there is not a perfect 
agreement of sentiment here on the public questions which 
might be rightfully considered in this convention, and that 
the indignation which we all must feel cannot be helped; 
but all of us must give up something for the good of the 
cause. There is one desire which is uppermost in the mind, 
one wish common to us all — to which no dissent will be 
made; and I counsel you earnestly to bury all resentment, 
to sink all personal feeling, make all things work to a com- 
mon purpose in which we are united and agreed about, and 
which all present will agree is absolutely ncessary — which 
must be done by any rightful mode if there be such : Slavery 
must be kept out of Kansas! The test — the pinch — is right 
there. If we lose Kansas to freedom, an example will be 
set which will prove fatal to freedom in the end. We, there- 
fore, in the language of the Bible, must ' lay the axe to the 
root of the tree.' Temporizing will not do longer; now 
is the time for decision — for firm, persistent, resolute ac- 

"We have made a good beginning here to-day. As our 
Methodist friends would say, ' I feel it is good to be here/ 
While extremists may find some fault with the moderation 
of our platform, they should remember that ' the battle is not 
always to the strong, nor the race to the swift.' In grave 
emergencies, moderation is generally safer than radicalism; 
and as this struggle is likely to be long and earnest, w r e must 
not, by our action, repel any who are in sympathy with us 
in the main, but rather win all that we can to our standard. 


We must not belittle nor overlook the facts of our condition 
— that we are new and comparatively weak, while our 
enemies are entrenched and relatively strong. They have the 
administration and the political power ; and, right or wrong, 
at present they have the numbers. Our friends who urge an 
appeal to arms with so much force and eloquence, should 
recollect that the government is arrayed against us, and 
that the numbers are now arrayed against us as well; or, 
to state it nearer to the truth, they are not yet expressly 
and affirmatively for us; and we should repel friends rather 
than gain them by anything savoring of revolutionary 
methods. As it now stands, we must appeal to the sober 
sense and patriotism of the people. We will make converts 
day by day; we will grow strong by calmness and mode- 
ration; we will grow strong by the violence and injustice 
of our adversaries. And, unless truth be a mockery and 
justice a hollow lie, we will be in the majority after a while, 
and then the revolution which we will accomplish will be 
none the less radical from being the result of pacific meas- 
ures. The battle of freedom is to be fought out on principle. 
Slavery is a violation of the eternal right. We have tempo- 
rized with it from the necessities of our condition, but as 
sure as God reigns and school children read, that black 


" I will not say that we may not sooner or later be com- 
pelled to meet force by force ; but the time has not yet come, 
and if we are true to ourselves, may never come. Do not 
mistake that the ballot is stronger than the bullet. There- 
fore, let the legions of slavery use bullets; but let us wait 
patiently till November, and fire ballots at them in return; 
and by that peaceful policy, I believe we shall ultimately 


• ••••••• 

" Did you ever, my friends, seriously reflect upon the 
speed with which we are tending downwards? Within 
the memory of men now present the leading statesmen of 
Virginia could make genuine, red-hot abolitionist speeche 


in old Virginia; and, as I have said, now even in ' free 
Kansas ' it is a crime to declare that it is ' free Kansas.' 
The very sentiments that I and others have just uttered, 
would entitle us, and each of us, to the ignominy and se- 
clusion of a dungeon; and yet I suppose that, like Paul, we 
were ' free born.' But if this thing is allowed to continue, 
it will be but one step further to impress the same rule in 
"The conclusion of all is, that we must restore the Mis- 
souri Compromise. We must highly resolve that Kansas 
must be free! We must reinstate the birthday promise of 
the Republic; we must reaffirm the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence; we must make good in essence as well as in form 
Madison's avowal that ' the word slave or ght not to ap- 
pear in the Constitution ; ' and we must e /en go further, 
and decree that only local law, and not that time-honored 
instrument, shall shelter a slave-holder. We must make this 
a land of liberty in fact, as it is in name. But in seeking to 
attain these results — so indispensable if the liberty which 
is our pride and boast shall endure — we will be loyal to the 
Constitution and to the ' flag of our Union,' and no matter 
what our grievance — even though Kansas shall come in as 
a slave State; and no matter what theirs — even if we shall 
restore the Compromise — We will say to the Southern 
disunionists, We won't go out of the Union, and 
you SHAN'T! ! ! 



" The greatest speech ever made in Illinois, and it puts 
Lincoln on the track for the Presidency," was the comment 
made by enthusiastic Republicans on Lincoln's speech be- 
fore the Bloomington Convention. Conscious that it was 
he who had put the breath of life into their organization, 
the party instinctively turned to him as its leader. The 
effect of this local recognition wae at once perceptible in 
the national organization. Less than three weeks after the 
delivery of the Bloomington speech, the national conven- 
tion of the Republican party met in Philadelphia June 
17, to nominate candidates for the presidency and vice- 
presidency. Lincoln's name was the second proposed for 
the latter office, and on the first ballot he received one hun- 
dred and ten votes. The news reached him at Urbana, 111., 
where he was attending court, one of his companions read- 
ing from a daily paper just received from Chicago, the 
result of the ballot. The simple name Lincoln was given, 
without the name of the man's State. Lincoln said indif- 
ferently that he did not suppose it could be himself; and 
added that there was " another great man " of the name, 
a man from Massachusetts. The next day, however, he 
knew that it was himself to whom the convention had given 
so strong an endorsement. He knew also that the ticket 
chosen was Fremont and Dayton. 

The campaign of the following summer and fall was one 
of intense activity for Lincoln. In Illinois and the neigh- 
boring States he made over fifty speeches, only fragments 



of which have been preserved. One of the first important 
ones was delivered on July 4, 1856, at a great mass meet- 
ing at Princeton, the home of the Lovejoys and the Bry- 
ants. The people were still irritated by the outrages in 
Kansas and by the attack on Sumner in the Senate, and 
the temptation to deliver a stirring and indignant oration 
must have been strong. Lincoln's speech was, however, a 
fine example of political wisdom, an historical argument ad- 
mirably calculated to convince his auditors that they were 
right in their opposition to slavery extension, but so con- 
trolled and sane that it would stir no impulsive radical to 
violence. There probably was not uttered in the United 
States on that critical 4th of July, 1856, when the very 
foundation of the government was in dispute and the day 
itself seemed a mockery, a cooler, more logical speech than 
this by the man who, a month before, had driven a con- 
vention so nearly mad that the very reporters had forgotten 
to make notes. And the temper of this Princeton speech 
Lincoln kept throughout the campaign. 

In spite of the valiant struggle of the Republicans, Bu- 
chanan was elected; but Lincoln was in no way discour- 
aged. The Republicans had polled 1,341,264 votes in the 
country. In Illinois, they had given Fremont nearly 100,- 
000 votes, and they had elected their candidate for gov- 
ernor, General Bissell. Lincoln turned from argument'? 
to encouragement and good counsel. 

" All of us," he said at a Republican banquet in Chicago, 
a few weeks after the election, " who did not vote for Mr. 
Buchanan, taken together, are a majority of four hundred 
thousand. But in the late contest we were divided between 
Fremont and Fillmore. Can we not come together for 
the future? Let every one who really believes and is re- 
solved that free society is not and shall not be a failure, 
and who can conscientiously declare that in the last con- 


test he has done only what he thought best — let every such 
one have charity to believe that every other one can say as 
much. Thus let bygones be bygones; let past differences 
as nothing be; and with steady eye on the real issue let us 
reinaugurate the good old * central idea ' of the republic. 
We can do it. The human heart is with us; God is with 
us. We shall again be able, not to declare that ' all States 
as States are equal,' nor yet that * all citizens as citizens are 
equal/ but to renew the broader, better declaration, includ- 
ing both these and much more, that ' all men are created 
equal.' " 

The spring of 1857 gave Lincoln a new line of argu- 
ment. Buchanan was scarcely in the Presidential chair 
before the Supreme Court, in the decision of the Dred 
Scott case, declared that a negro could not sue in the United 
States courts and that Congress could not prohibit slavery 
in the Territories. This decision was such an evident ad- 
vance of the slave power that there was a violent uproar in 
the North. Douglas went at once to Illinois to calm his con- 
stituents. " What/' he cried, " oppose the Supreme Court ! 
Is it not sacred ? To resist it is anarchy." 

Lincoln met him fairly on the issue in a speech at Spring- 
field in June, 1857. 

" We believe as much as Judge Douglas (perhaps more) 
in obedience to and respect for the judicial department of 
government. . . . But we think the Dred Scott decision 
is erroneous. We know the court that made it has often 
overruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to 
have it overrule this. We offer no resistance to it. . . . 
If this important decision had been made by the unani- 
mous concurrence of the judges, and without any ap- 
parent partisan bias, and in accordance with legal pub- 
lic expectation and with the steady practice of the de- 
partments throughout our history, and had been in no 
part based on assumed historical facts which are not really 
true; or if, wanting in some of these, it had been before 


the court more than once, and had there been affirmed and 
reaffirmed through a course of years, it then might be, per- 
haps would be, factious, nay, even revolutionary, not to 
acquiesce in it as a precedent. But when, as is true, we 
find it wanting in all these claims to the public confidence, it 
is not resistance, it is not factious, it is not even disrespect- 
ful, to treat it as not having yet quite established a settled 
doctrine for the country." 

Let Douglas cry " awful," " anarchy," " revolution," as 
much as he would, Lincoln's arguments against the Dred 
Scott decision appealed to common sense and won him 
commendation all over the country. Even the radical lead- 
ers of the party in the East- — Seward, Sumner, Theodore 
Parker — began to notice him, to read his speeches, to con- 
sider his arguments. 

With every month of 1857 Lincoln grew stronger, and 
his election in Illinois as United States senatorial candidate 
in 1858 against Douglas would have been insured if Douglas 
had not suddenly broken with Buchanan and his party in 
a way which won him the hearty sympathy and respect of 
a large part of the Republicans of the North. By a fla- 
grantly unfair vote the pro-slavery leaders of Kansas had 
secured the adoption of the Lecompton Constitution allow- 
ing slavery in the State. President Buchanan urged Con- 
gress to admit Kansas with her bogus Constitution. Doug- 
las, who would not sanction so base an injustice, opposed 
the measure, voting with the Republicans steadily against 
the admission. The Buchananists, outraged at what they 
called " Douglas's apostasy," broke with him. Then it 
was that a part of the Republican party, notably Horace 
Greeley at the head of the New York " Tribune," struck 
by the boldness and nobility of Douglas's opposition, began 
to hope to win him over from the Democrats to the Repub- 
licans. Their first step was to counsel the leaders of their 


party in Illinois to put up no candidate against Douglas for 
the United States senatorship in 1858. 

Lincoln saw this change on the part of the Republican 
leaders with dismay. " Greeley is not doing me right," he 
said. " . . . I am a true Republican, and have been 
tried already in the hottest part of the anti-slavery fight; and 
yet I find him taking up Douglas, a veritable dodger, — once 
a tool of the South, now its enemy, — and pushing him to 
the front." He grew so restless over the returning popu- 
larity of Douglas among the Republicans that Herndon, his 
law-partner, determined to go East to find out the real feel- 
ing of the Eastern leaders towards Lincoln. Herndon had, 
for a long time, been in correspondence with the leading 
abolitionists and had no difficulty in getting interviews. 
The returns he brought back from his canvass were not 
altogether reassuring. Seward, Sumner, Phillips, Garrison, 
Beecher, Theodore Parker, all spoke favorably of Lincoln, 
and Seward sent him word that the Republicans would 
never take up so slippery a quantity as Douglas had proved 
himself. But Greeley — the all-important Greeley — was 
lukewarm. " The Republican standard is too high," he 
told Herndon. " We want something practical. . . . 
Douglas is a brave man. Forget the past and sustain the 
righteous." " Good God, righteous, eh ! " groaned Hern- 
don in his letter to Lincoln. 

But though the encouragement which came to Lincoln 
from the East in the spring of 1858 was meagre, that which 
came from Illinois was abundant. There the Republicans 
supported him in whole-hearted devotion. In June, the 
State convention, meeting in Springfield to nominate its 
candidate for Senator, declared that Abraham Lincoln was its 
first and only choice as the successor of Stephen A. Douglas. 
The press was jubilant. " Unanimity is a weak word," 
wrote the editor of the Bloomington " Pantagraph," " to 


The fifth debate between Lincoln and Douglas was held at Galesburg, Illinois, on October 
7, 1858. The platform from which they spoke was erected at the end of Knox College. The 
students took a lively interest in the contest, decorating the college gayly with flags and 
streamers. Immediately over the heads of the speakers, extending across the end of the 
building, was placed a large banner bearing the words : "Knox College for Lincoln." 


express the universal and intense feeling of the convention, 
Lincoln! Lincoln!! LINCOLN!!! was the cry every- 
where, whenever the senatorship was alluded to. Delegates 
from Chicago and from Cairo, from the Wabash and the 
Illinois, from the north, the center, and the south, were alike 
fierce with enthusiasm, whenever that loved name was 
breathed. Enemies at home and misjudging friends abroad, 
who have looked for dissension among us on the question of 
the senatorship, will please take notice that our nomination is 
a unanimous one; and that, in the event of a Republican 
majority in the next Legislature, no other name than Lin- 
coln's will be mentioned, or thought of, by a solitary Repub- 
lican legislator. One little incident in the convention was a 
pleasing illustration of the universality of the Lincoln senti- 
ment. Cook county had brought a banner into the assem- 
blage inscribed, ' Cook County for Abraham Lincoln/ Dur- 
ing a pause in the proceedings, a delegate from another 
county rose and proposed, with the consent of the Cook 
county delegation, ' to amend the banner by substituting for 
" Cook County " the word which I hold in my hand/ at the 
same time unrolling a scroll, and revealing the word ' Ill- 
inois ' in huge capitals. The Cook delegation promptly 
accepted the amendment, and amidst a perfect hurricane of 
hurrahs, the banner was duly altered to express the sentiment 
of the whole Republican party of the State, thus : ' Illinois 
for Abraham Lincoln.' " 

On the evening of the day of his nomination, Lincoln ad- 
dressed his constituents. The first paragraph of his speech 
gave the key to the campaign he proposed. "A house divided 
against itself cannot stand. I believe this government can- 
not endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not 
expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be 
divided. It will become all one thing or all the other." 

Then followed the famous charge of conspiracy against 


the slavery advocates, the charge that Pierce, Buchanan, 
Chief Justice Taney, and Douglas had been making a con- 
certed effort to legalize the institution of slavery " in all the 
States, old as well as new, North as well as South." He 
marshalled one after another of the measures that the pro- 
slavery leaders had secured in the past four years, and 
clinched the argument by one of his inimitable illustrations : 

" When we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions 
of which we know have been gotten out at different times 
and places and by different workmen, — Stephen, Franklin, 
Roger and James,* for instance, — and we see these timbers 
joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a 
house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, 
and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces 
exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too 
many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding — or, if a 
single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly 
fitted and prepared yet to bring such a piece in — in such a 
case we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and 
Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another 
from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or 
draft, drawn up before the first blow was struck." 

The speech was severely criticised by Lincoln's friends. 
It was too radical. It was sectional. He heard the com- 
plaints unmoved. " If I had to draw a pen across my 
record," he said, one day, " and erase my whole life from 
sight, and I had one poor gift or choice left as to what I 
should save from the wreck, I should choose that speech and 
leave it to the world unerased." 

The speech was, in fact, one of great political adroitness. 
It forced Douglas to do exactly what he did not want to do 
in Illinois: explain his own record during the past four 
years; explain the true meaning of the Kansas-Nebraska 

* Stephen A. Douglas, Franklin Pierce, Roger Taney, Jamei 


bill ; discuss the Dred Scott decision ; say whether or not he 
thought slavery so good a thing that the country could afford 
to extend it instead of confining it where it would be in 
course of gradual extinction. Douglas wanted the Republi- 
cans of Illinois to follow Greeley's advice: " Forgive the 
past." He wanted to make the most among them of his 
really noble revolt against the attempt of his party to fasten 
an unjust constitution on Kansas. Lincoln would not allow 
him to bask for an instant in the sun of that revolt. He 
crowded him step by step through his party's record, and 
compelled him to face what he called the " profound central 
truth " of the Republican party, " slavery is wrong and 
ought to be dealt with as wrong." 

But it was at once evident that Douglas did not mean to 
meet the issue squarely. He called the doctrine of Lincoln's 
" house-divided-against-itself " speech "sectionalism;" his 
charge of conspiracy " false ; " his talk of the wrong of slav- 
ery extension " abolitionism." This went on for a month. 
Then Lincoln resolved to force Douglas to meet his argu- 
ments, and challenged him to a series of joint debates. Doug- 
las was not pleased. His reply to the challenge was irritable, 
even slightly insolent. To those of his friends who talked 
with him privately of the contest, he said : a I do not feel, 
between you and me, that I want to go into this debate. The 
whole country knows me, and has me measured. Lincoln, 
as regards myself, is comparatively unknown, and if he gets 
the best of this debate, — and I want to say he is the ablest 
man the Republicans have got, — I shall lose everything and 
Lincoln will gain everything. Should I win, I shall gain 
but little. I do not want to go into a debate with Abe." 
Publicly, however, he carried off the prospect confidently, 
even jauntily. " Mr. Lincoln," he said patronizingly, " is a 
kind, amiable, intelligent gentleman." In the mean time his 
constituents boasted loudly of the fine spectacle they were 


going to give the State — " the Little Giant chawing up Old 

Many of Lincoln's friends looked forward to the encounter 
with foreboding. Often, in spite of their best intentions, 
they showed anxiety. " Shortly before the first debate came 
off at Ottawa," says Judge H. W. Beckwith of Danville, 111. 
" I passed the Chenery House, then the principal hotel in 
Springfield. The lobby was crowded with partisan leaders 
from various sections of the State, and Mr. Lincoln, from 
his greater height, was seen above the surging mass that 
clung about him like a swarm of bees to their ruler. He 
looked careworn, but he met the crowd patiently and kindly, 
shaking hands, answering questions, and receiving assur- 
ances of support. The day was warm, and at the first 
chance he broke away and came out for a little fresh air, 
wiping the sweat from his face. 

"As he passed the door he saw me, and, taking my hand, 
inquired for the health and views of his ' friends over in 
Vermilion county.' He was assured they were wide awake, 
and further told that they looked forward to the debate 
between him and Senator Douglas with deep concern. From 
the shadow that went quickly over his face, the pained look 
that came to give quickly way to a blaze of eyes and quiver 
of lips, I felt that Mr. Lincoln had gone beneath my mere 
words and caught my inner and current fears as to the result. 
And then, in a forgiving, jocular way peculiar to him, he 
said, ' Sit down ; I have a moment to spare and will tell you 
a story.' Having been on his feet for some time, he sat on 
the end of the stone step leading into the hotel door, while I 
stood closely fronting him, 

" 'You have,' he continued, * seen two men about to fight? ' 

" ' Yes, many times.' 

" ' Well, one of them brags about what he means to do. 
He jumps high in the sir cracking his heels together, smites 


his fists, and wastes his breath trying to scare somebody. You 
see the other fellow, he says not a word,' — here Mr. Lincoln's 
voice and manner changed to great earnestness, and repeat- 
ing—' you see the other man says not a word. His arms 
are at his side, his fists are closely doubled up, his head is 
drawn to the shoulder, and his teeth are set firm together. 
He is saving his wind for the fight, and as sure as it comes off 
he will win it, or die a-trying.' 

" He made no other comment, but arose, bade me good- 
by, and left me to apply the illustration." 

It was inevitable that Douglas's friends should be san- 
guine, Lincoln's doubtful. The contrast between the two 
candidates was almost pathetic. Senator Douglas was the 
most brilliant figure in the political life of the day. Winning 
in personality, fearless as an advocate, magnetic in eloquence, 
shrewd in political manoeuvring, he had every quality to 
captivate the public. His resources had never failed him. 
From his entrance into Illinois politics in 1834, he had been 
the recipient of every political honor his party had to bestow. 
For the past eleven years he had been a member of the United 
States Senate, where he had influenced all the important 
legislation of the day and met in debate every strong speaker 
of North and South. In 1852, and again in 1856, he had 
been a strongly supported, though unsuccessful, candidate 
for the Democratic presidential nomination. In 1858 he 
was put at or near the head of every list of possible presi- 
dential candidates made up for i860. 

How barren Lincoln's public career in comparison ! Three 
terms in the lower house of the State Assembly, one term in 
Congress, then a failure which drove him from public life. 
Now he returns as a bolter from his party, a leader in a new 
organization which the conservatives are denouncing as 
" visionary," " impractical," " revolutionary." 

No one recognized more clearly than Lincoln the differ- 


ence between himself and his opponent. " With me," he 
said, sadly, in comparing the careers of himself and Douglas, 
" the race of ambition has been a failure — a flat failure. 
With him it has been one of splendid success." He warned 
his party at the outset that, with himself as a standard- 
bearer, the battle must be fought on principle alone, without 
any of the external aids which Douglas's brilliant career 
gave. " Senator Douglas is of world-wide renown," he 
said ; " All the anxious politicians of his party, or who have 
been of his party for years past, have been looking upon him 
as certainly, at no distant day, to be the President of the 
United States. They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful 
face, post-offices, land-offices, marshalships, and cabinet ap- 
pointments, chargeships and foreign missions, bursting and 
sprouting out in wonderful exuberance, ready to be laid hold 
of by their greedy hands. And as they have been gazing 
upon this attractive picture so long, they cannot, in the little 
distraction that has taken place in the party, bring themselves 
to give up the charming hope; but with greedier anxiety 
they rush about him, sustain him, and give him marches, tri- 
umphal entries, and receptions beyond what even in the days 
of his highest prosperity they could have brought about in 
his favor. On the contrary, nobody has ever expected me 
to be President. In my poor, lean, lank face, nobody has 
ever seen that any cabbages were sprouting out. These are 
disadvantages, all taken together, that the Republicans labor 
under. We have to fight this battle upon principle, and upon 
principle alone." 

If one will take a map of Illinois and locate the points of 
the Lincoln and Douglas debates held between August 2 1 and 
October 15, 1858, he will see that the whole State was trav- 
ersed in the contest. The first took place at Ottawa, about 
seventy-five miles southwest of Chicago, on August 21 ; the 
second at Freeport, near the Wisconsin boundary, on August 


27. The third was in the extreme southern part of the 
State, at Jonesboro, on September 15. Three days later the 
contestants met one hundred and fifty miles northeast of 
Jonesboro, at Charleston. The fifth, sixth, and seventh de- 
bates were held in the western part of the State; at Gales- 
burg, October 7; Quincy, October 13; and Alton, Octo- 
ber 15. 

Constant exposure and fatigue were unavoidable in meet- 
ing these engagements. Both contestants spoke almost every 
day through the intervals between the joint debates; and as 
railroad communication in Illinois in 1858 was still very in- 
complete, they were often obliged to resort to horse, car- 
riage, or steamer to reach the desired points. Judge Douglas 
succeeded, however, in making this difficult journey some- 
thing of a triumphal procession. He was accompanied 
throughout the campaign by his wife — a beautiful and bril- 
liant woman — and by a number of distinguished Democrats. 
On the Illinois Central Railroad he had always a special car, 
sometimes a special train. Frequently he swept by Lincoln, 
side-tracked in an accommodation or freight train. " The 
gentleman in that car evidently smelt no royalty in our car- 
riage," laughed Lincoln one day, as he watched from the 
caboose of a laid-up freight train the decorated special of 
Douglas flying by. 

It was only when Lincoln left the railroad and crossed the 
prairie, to speak at some isolated town, that he went in state. 
The attentions he received were often very trying to him. 
He detested what he called " fizzlegigs and fireworks," and 
would squirm in disgust when his friends gave him a genuine 
prairie ovation. Usually, when he was going to a point 
distant from the railway, a " distinguished citizen " met him 
at the station nearest the place with a carriage. When they 
were come within two or three miles of the town, a long pro- 
cession with banners and band would appear winding across 


the prairie to meet the speaker. A speech of greeting wa9 
made, and then the ladies of the entertainment committee 
would present Lincoln with flowers, sometimes even winding 
a garland about his head and lank figure. His embarrass- 
ment at these attentions was thoroughly appreciated by his 
friends. At the Ottawa debate the enthusiasm of his support- 
ers was so great that they insisted on carrying him from the 
platform to the house where he was to be entertained. Power- 
less to escape from the clutches of his admirers, he could only 
cry, " Don't, boys ; let me down ; come now, don't/' But the 
" boys " persisted, and they tell to-day proudly of their ex- 
ploit and of the cordial hand-shake Lincoln, all embarrassed 
as he was, gave each of them when at last he was free. 

On arrival at the towns where the joint debates were held, 
Douglas was always met by a brass band and a salute of 
thirty-two guns (the Union was composed of thirty-two 
States in 1858), and was escorted to the hotel in the finest 
equipage to be had. Lincoln's supporters took delight in 
showing their contempt of Douglas's elegance by affecting a 
Republican simplicity, often carrying their candidate through 
the streets on a high and unadorned hay-rack drawn by farm 
horses. The scenes in the towns on the occasion of the de- 
bates were perhaps never equalled at any other of the hust- 
ings of this country. No distance seemed too great for the 
people to go ; no vehicle too slow or fatiguing. At Charles- 
ton there was a great delegation of men, women, and children 
present which had come in a long procession from Indiana 
by farm wagons, afoot, on horseback, and in carriages. The 
crowds at three or four of the debates were for that day im- 
mense. There were estimated to be from eight thousand to 
fourteen thousand people at Quincy, some six thousand at 
Alton, from ten thousand to fifteen thousand at Charleston, 
some twenty thousand at Ottawa. Many of those at Ottawa 
came the night before. " It was a matter of but a short 


time," says Mi. George Beatty of Ottawa, "until the few 
hotels, the livery stables, and private houses were crowded, 
and there were no accommodations left. Then the cam- 
paigners spread out about the town, and camped in whatever 
spot was most convenient. They went along the bluff and 
on the bottom-lands, and that night the camp-fires, spread 
up and down the valley for a mile, made it look as if an army 
was gathered about us." 

When the crowd was massed at the place of the debate, the 
scene was one of the greatest hubbub and confusion. On the 
corners of the squares, and scattered around the outskirts 
of the crowd, were fakirs of every description, selling pain- 
killers and ague cures, watermelons and lemonade; jugglers 
and beggars plied their trades, and the brass bands of all 
the four corners within twenty-five miles tooted and pounded 
at " Hail Columbia, Happy Land," or " Columbia, the Gem 
of the Ocean." 

Conspicuous in the processions at all the points was what 
Lincoln called the " Basket of Flowers," thirty-two young 
girls in a resplendent car, representing the Union. At 
Charleston, a thirty-third young woman rode behind the car, 
representing Kansas. She carried a banner inscribed : " I 
will be free; " a motto which brought out from nearly all 
the newspaper reporters the comment that she was too fair 
to be long free. 

The mottoes at the different meetings epitomized the popu- 
lar conception of the issues and the candidates. Among the 
Lincoln sentiments were: 

Illinois born under the Ordinance of '87. 

Free Territories and Free Men, 

Free Pulpits and Free Preachers, 
Free Press and a Free Pen, 

Free Schools and Free Teachers. 


" Westward the star of empire takes its way; 
The girls link on to Lincoln, their mothers were for Clay.** 

Abe the Giant-Killer. 

Edgar County for the Tall Sucker. 

A striking feature of the crowds was the number of women 
they included. The intelligent and lively interest they took 
in the debates caused much comment. No doubt Mrs. Doug- 
las's presence had something to do with this. They were 
particularly active in receiving the speakers, and at Quincy, 
Lincoln, on being presented with what the local press de- 
scribed as a " beautiful and elegant bouquet," took pains to 
express his gratification at the part women everywhere took 
in the contest. 

While this helter-skelter outpouring of prairiedom had the 
appearance of being little more than a great jollification, a 
lawless country fair, in reality it was with the majority of 
the people a profoundly serious matter. With every discus- 
sion it became more vital. Indeed, in the first debate, which 
was opened and closed by Douglas,* the relation of the two 
speakers became dramatic. It was here that Douglas, hoping 
to fasten on Lincoln the stigma of " abolitionist," charged 
him with having undertaken to abolitionize the old Whig 
party, and having been in 1854 a subscriber to a radical 
platform proclaimed at Springfield. This platform Doug- 
las read. Lincoln, when he replied, could only say he was 
never at the convention — knew nothing of the resolutions; 
but the impression prevailed that he was cornered. The 
next issue of the Chicago " Press and Tribune " dispelled it. 
That paper had employed to report the debates the first short- 

* By the terms agreed upon by Douglas and Lincoln for regulating 
the debates Douglas opened at Ottawa, Jonesboro, Galesburg, and Al- 
ton with an hour's speech; was followed by Lincoln with a speech of 
one and a half hours, and closed with a half-hour speech. At the three 
remaining points, Freeport, Charleston, and Quincy, Lincoln opened 
and closed. 


hand reporter in Chicago, Mr. Robert L. Hitt— now a Mem- 
ber of Congress and the Chairman of the Committee on For- 
eign Affairs. Mr. Hitt, when Douglas began to read the 
resolutions, took an opportunity to rest, supposing he could 
get the original from the speaker. He took down only the 
first line of each resolution. He missed Douglas after the 
debate, but on reaching Chicago, where he wrote out his re- 
port, he sent an assistant to the files to find the platform 
adopted at the Springfield Convention. It was brought, but 
when Mr. Hitt began to transcribe it he saw at once that it 
was widely different from the one Douglas had read. There 
was great excitement in the office, and the staff, ardently 
Republican, went to work to discover where the resolutions 
had come from. It was found that they originated at a 
meeting of radical abolitionists with whom Lincoln had 
never been associated. 

The " Press and Tribune " announced the " forgery," as it 
was called in a caustic editorial, " The Little Dodger Cor- 
nered and Caught." Within a week even the remote school- 
districts of Illinois were discussing Douglas's action, and 
many of the most important papers of the nation had made 
it a subject of editorial comment. 

Almost without exception Douglas was condemned. No 
amount of explanation on his part helped him. " The par- 
ticularity of Douglas's charge," said the Louisville " Jour- 
nal," " precludes the idea that he was simply and innocently 
mistaken." Lovers of fair play were disgusted, and those of 
Douglas's own party who would have applauded a trick too 
clever to be discovered could not forgive him for one which 
had been found out. Greeley came out bitterly against him, 
and before long wrote to Lincoln and Herndon that Douglas 
was " like the man's boy who (he said) didn't weigh so 
much as he expected and he always knew he wouldn't." 

Douglas's error became a sharp-edged sword in Lincoln's 


hand. Without directly referring to it, he called his hearers' 
attention to the forgery every time he quoted a document 
by his elaborate explanation that he believed, unless there 
was some mistake on the part of those with whom the matter 
originated and which he had been unable to detect, that this 
was correct. Once when Douglas brought forward a docu- 
ment, Lincoln blandly remarked that he could scarcely be 
blamed for doubting its genuineness since the introduction 
of the Springfield resolutions at Ottawa. 

It was in the second debate, at Freeport, that Lincoln made 
the boldest stroke of the contest. Soon after the Ottawa 
debate, in discussing his plan for the next encounter, with a 
number of his political friends, — Washburne, Cook, Judd, 
and others, — he told them he proposed to ask Douglas four 
questions, which he read. One and all cried halt at the sec- 
ond question. Under no condition, they said, must he put it. 
If it were put, Douglas would answer it in such a way as to 
win the senatorship. The morning of the debate, while on 
the way to Freeport, Lincoln read the same questions to Mr. 
Joseph Medill. " I do not like this second question, Mr. 
Lincoln/' said Mr. Medill. The two men argued to their 
journey's end, but Lincoln was still unconvinced. Even 
after he reached Freeport several Republican leaders came to 
him pleading, " Do not ask that question." He was obdu- 
rate; and he went on the platform with a higher head, a 
haughtier step than his friends had noted in him before. Lin- 
coln was going to ruin himself, the committee said despond- 
ently ; one would think he did not want the senatorship. 

The mooted question ran in Lincoln's notes : " Can the 
people of a United States territory in any lawful way, against 
the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slav- 
ery from its limits prior to the formation of a State Consti- 
tution ? " Lincoln had seen the irreconcilableness of Doug- 
las's own measure of popular sovereignty, which declared 


From photograph loaned by W. J. Franklin of Macomb, Illinois, and taken in 1866 from 
an ambrotype made in 1858, at Macomb. 


that the people of a territory should be left to regulate their 
domestic concerns in their own way subject only to 
the Constitution, and the decision of the Supreme 
Court in the Dred Scott case that slaves, being property, 
could not under the Constitution be excluded from a 
territory. He knew that if Douglas said no to this question, 
his Illinois constituents would never return him to the Sen- 
ate. He believed that if he said yes, the people of the South 
would never vote for him for President of the United States. 
He was willing himself to lose the senatorship in order to 
defeat Douglas for the Presidency in i860. " I am after 
larger game; the battle of i860 is worth a hundred of this," 
he said confidently. 

The question was put, and Douglas answered it with rare 
artfulness. " It matters not," he cried, " what way the Su- 
preme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question 
whether slavery may or may not go into a territory under 
the Constitution ; the people have the lawful means to intro- 
duce it or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slav- 
ery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere unless it is sup- 
ported by local police regulations. Those police regulations 
can only be established by the local legislature, and if the 
people are opposed to slavery, they will elect representatives 
to that body who will, by unfriendly legislation, effectually 
prevent the introduction of it into their midst. If, on the 
contrary, they are for it, their legislation will favor its ex- 

His Democratic constituents went wild over the clever way 
in which Douglas had escaped Lincoln's trap. He now prac- 
tically had his election. The Republicans shook their heads. 
Lincoln only was serene. He alone knew what he had done. 
The Freeport debate had no sooner reached the pro-slavery 
press than a storm of protest went up. Douglas had be- 
trayed the South. He had repudiated the Supreme Court 


decision. He had declared that slavery could be kept out 
of the territories by other legislation than a State Constitu- 
tion. " The Freeport doctrine/' or " the theory of unfriendly 
legislation/' as it became known, spread month by month, 
and slowly but surely made Douglas an impossible candi- 
date in the South. The force of the question was not real- 
ized in full by Lincoln's friends until the Democratic party 
met in Charleston, S. C, in i860, and the Southern dele- 
gates refused to support Douglas because of the answer he 
gave to Lincoln's question in the Freeport debate of 1858. 

" Do you recollect the argument we had on the way up 
to Freeport two years ago over the question I was going to 
ask Judge Douglas ? " Lincoln asked Mr. Joseph Medill, 
when the latter went to Springfield a few days after the 
election of i860. 

" Yes," said Medill, " I recollect it very well." 

" Don't you think I was right now ? " 

" We were both right. The question hurt Douglas for the 
Presidency, but it lost you the senatorship." 

" Yes, and I have won the place he was playing for." 

From the beginning of the campaign Lincoln supple- 
mented the strength of his arguments by inexhaustible good- 
humor. Douglas, physically worn, harassed by the trend 
which Lincoln had given the discussions, irritated that his 
adroitness and eloquence could not so cover the fundamental 
truth of the Republican position but that it would up again, 
often grew angry, even abusive. Lincoln answered him with 
most effective raillery. At Havana, where he spoke the day 
after Douglas, he said : 

"I am informed that my distinguished friend yester- 
day became a little excited — nervous, perhaps — and he said 
something about fighting, as though referring to a pugilistic 
encounter between him and myself. Did anybody in this 
audience hear him use such language? [Cries of "Yes."] 


I am informed further, that somebody in his audience, rather 
more excited and nervous than himself, took off his coat, 
and offered to take the job off Judge Douglas's hands, and 
fight Lincoln himself. Did anybody here witness that war- 
like proceeding? [Laughter and cries of " Yes."] Well, 
I merely desire to say that I shall fight neither Judge Doug- 
las nor his second. I shall not do this for two reasons, 
which I will now explain. In the first place, a fight would 
prove nothing which is in issue in this contest. It might es- 
tablish that Judge Douglas is a more muscular man than 
myself, or it might demonstrate that I am a more muscular 
man than Judge Douglas. But this question is not referred 
to in the Cincinnati platform, nor in either of the Spring- 
field platforms. Neither result would prove him right nor 
me wrong; and so of the gentleman who volunteered to do 
this fighting for him. If my fighting Judge Douglas would 
not prove anything, it would certainly prove nothing for 
me to fight his bottle-holder. 

" My second reason for not having a personal encounter 
with the judge is, that I don't believe he wants it himself. 
He and I are about the best friends in the world, and when 
we get together he would no more think of fighting me than 
of fighting his wife. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, when 
the judge talked about fighting, he was not giving vent to 
any ill feeling of his own, but merely trying to excite — well, 
enthusiasm against me on the part of his audience. And as 
I find he was tolerably successful, we will call it quits." 

More difficult for Lincoln to take good-naturedly than 
threats and hard names was the irrelevant matters which 
Douglas dragged into the debates to turn attention from the 
vital arguments. Thus Douglas insisted repeatedly on taunt- 
ing Lincoln because his zealous friends had carried him off 
the platform at Ottawa. " Lincoln was so frightened by 
the questions put to him," said Douglas, " that he could 
not walk." He tried to arouse the prejudice of the au- 
dience by absurd charges of abolitionism. Lincoln wanted 
to give negroes social equality; he wanted a negro wife; he 


was willing to allow Fred Douglass to make speeches fot 
him. Again he took up a good deal of Lincoln's time by 
forcing him to answer to a charge of refusing to vote sup- 
plies for the soldiers in the Mexican War. Lincoln denied 
and explained, until at last, at Charleston, he turned sud- 
denly to Douglas's supporters, dragging one of the strong- 
est of them — the Hon. O. B. Ficklin, with whom he had been 
in Congress in 1848 — to the platform. 

" I do not mean to do anything with Mr. Ficklin," he said, 
" except to present his face and tell you that he personally 
knows it to be a lie." And Mr. Ficklin had to acknowledge 
that Lincoln was right. 

" Judge Douglas," said Lincoln in speaking of this policy, 
" is playing cuttlefish — a small species of fish that has no 
mode of defending himself when pursued except by throwing 
out a black fluid which makes the water so dark the enemy 
cannot see it, and thus it escapes." 

The question at stake was too serious in Lincoln's judg- 
ment, for platform jugglery. Every moment of his time 
which Douglas forced him to spend answering irrelevant 
charges he gave begrudgingly. He struggled constantly to 
keep his speeches on the line of solid argument. Slowly but 
surely those who followed the debates began to understand 
this. It was Douglas who drew the great masses to the de- 
bates in the first place ; it was because of him that the public 
men and the newspapers of the East, as well as of the West, 
watched the discussions. But as the days went on it was not 
Douglas who made the impression. 

During the hours of the speeches the two men seemed well 
mated. " I can recall only one fact of the debates," says Mrs. 
William Crotty of Seneca, Illinois, " that I felt so sorry for 
Lincoln while Douglas was speaking, and then to my surprise 
I felt so sorry for Douglas when Lincoln replied." The dis- 
interested to whom it was an intellectual game, felt the power 



and diarm of both men. Partisans had each reason enough 
to cheer. It was afterwards, as the debates were talked over 
by auditors as they lingered at the country store or were 
grouped on the fence in the evening, or when they were read 
in the generous reports which the newspapers of Illinois and 
even of other States gave, that the thoroughness of Lincoln's 
argument was understood. Even the first debate at Ottawa 
had a surprising effect. " I tell you," says Mr. George Beatty 
of Ottawa, " that debate set people thinking on these import- 
ant questions in a way they hadn't dreamed of. I heard any 
number of men say : ' This thing is an awfully serious ques- 
tion, and I have about concluded Lincoln has got it right.' 
My father, a thoughtful, God-fearing man, said to me, as 
we went home to supper, ' George, you are young, and don't 
see what this thing means, as I do. Douglas's speeches of 
" squatter sovereignty " please you younger men, but I tell 
you that with us older men it's a great question that faces us. 
We've either got to keep slavery back or it's going to spread 
all over the country. That's the real question that's behind 
all this. Lincoln is right.' And that was the feeling that 
prevailed, I think, among the majority, after the debate was 
over. People went home talking about the danger of slav- 
ery getting a hold in the North. This territory had been 
Democratic; La Salle County, the morning of the day of the 
debate, was Democratic ; but when the next day came around, 
hundreds of Democrats had been made Republicans, owing 
to the light in which Lincoln had brought forward the fact 
that slavery threatened." 

It was among Lincoln's own friends, however, that his 
speeches produced the deepest impression. They had be- 
lieved him to be strong, but probably there was no one of 
them who had not felt dubious about his ability to meet 
Douglas. Many even feared a fiasco. Gradually it began 
to be clear to them that Lincoln was the stronger. Could it 


be that Lincoln really was a great man? The young Re- 
publican journalists of the " Press and Tribune " — Scripps, 
Hitt, Medill — began to ask themselves the question. One 
evening as they talked over Lincoln's arguments a letter was 
received. It came from a prominent Eastern statesman. 
" Who is this man that is replying to Douglas in your 
State? " he asked. " Do you realize that no greater speeches 
have been made on public questions in the history of our 
country; that his knowledge of the subject is profound, his 
logic unanswerable, his style inimitable ? " Similar letters 
kept coming from various parts of the country. Before the 
campaign was over Lincoln's friends were exultant. Their 
favorite was a great man, " a full-grown man," as one of 
them wrote in his paper. 

The country at large watched Lincoln with astonishment. 
When the debates began there were Republicans in Illinois 
of wider national reputation. Judge Lyman Trumbull, then 
Senator, was better known. He was an able debater, and 
a speech which he made in August against Douglas's record 
called from the New York " Evening Post " the remark : 
" This is the heaviest blow struck at Senator Douglas since 
he took the field in Illinois; it is unanswerable, and we sus- 
pect that it will be fatal." Trumbull's speech the " Post " 
afterwards published in pamphlet form. Besides Trumbull, 
Owen Love joy, Oglesby, and Palmer were all speaking. 
That Lincoln should not only have so far outstripped men of 
his own party, but should have out-argued Douglas, was the 
cause of comment everywhere. " No man of this genera- 
tion," said the " Evening Post " editorially, at the close of 
the debate, " has grown more rapidly before the country than 
Lincoln in this canvass." As a matter of fact, Lincoln had 
attracted the attention of all the thinking men of the coun- 
try. " The first thing that really awakened my interest in 
him," says Henry Ward Beecher, " was his speech parallel 


with Douglas in Illinois, and indeed it was that manifesta- 
tion of ability that secured his nomination to the presi- 
dency/ ' 

But able as were Lincoln's arguments, deep as was the im- 
pression he had made, he was not elected to the senatorship. 
Douglas won fairly enough ; though it is well to note that if 
the Republicans did not elect a senator they gained a sub- 
stantial number of votes over those polled in 1856. 

Lincoln accepted the result with a serenity inexplicable 
to his supporters. To him the contest was but one battle in 
a " durable " struggle. Little matter who won now, if in 
the end the right triumphed. From the first he had looked 
at the final result — not at the senatorship. " I do not claim, 
gentlemen, to be unselfish," he said at Chicago in July. " I 
do not pretend that I would not like to go to the United States 
Senate ; I make no such hypocritical pretense ; but I do say 
to you that in this mighty issue, it is nothing to you, nothing 
to the mass of the people of the nation, whether or not Judge 
Douglas or myself shall ever be heard of after this night ; it 
may be a trifle to either of us, but in connection with this 
mighty question, upon which hang the destinies of the na- 
tion perhaps, it is absolutely nothing. " 

The intense heat and fury of the debates, the defeat in 
November, did not alter a jot this high view. " I am glad I 
made the late race," he wrote Dr. A. G. Henry. " It gave 
me a hearing on the great and durable question of the age 
which I would have had in no other way ; and though I now 
sink out of view and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made 
some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long 
after I am gone." 

At that date perhaps no one appreciated the value of what 
Lincoln had done as well as he did himself. He was abso- 
lutely sure he was right and that in the end people would 
see it. Though he might not rise, he knew his cause would. 


" Douglas had the ingenuity to be supported in the late con- 
test both as the best means to break down and to uphold the 
slave interest," he wrote. " No ingenuity can keep these an- 
tagonistic elements in harmony long. Another explosion 
will soon occur." His whole attention was given to conserv- 
ing what the Republicans had gained, — " We have some 
one hundred and twenty thousand clear Republican votes. 
That pile is worth keeping together;" to consoling his 
friends, — " You are feeling badly," he wrote to N. B. Judd, 
Chairman of the Republican Committee, " and this too shall 
pass away, never fear;" to rallying for another effort, — 
" The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the 
end of one or even one hundred defeats." 

If Lincoln had at times a fear that his defeat would cause 
him to be set aside, it soon was dispelled. The interest 
awakened in him was genuine, and it spread with the wider 
reading and discussion of his arguments. He was besieged 
by letters from all parts of the Union, congratulations, en- 
couragements, criticisms. Invitations for lectures poured in 
upon him, and he became the first choice of his entire party 
for political speeches. 

The greater number of these invitations he declined. He 
had given so much time to politics since 1854 that his law 
practice had been neglected and he was feeling poor; but 
there were certain of the calls which could not be resisted. 
Douglas spoke several times for the Democrats of Ohio in 
the 1859 campaign for governor and Lincoln naturally was 
asked to reply. He made but two speeches, one at Columbus 
on September 16 and the other at Cincinnati on September 
17, but he had great audiences on both occasions. The 
Columbus speech was devoted almost entirely to answering 
an essay by Douglas which had been published in the Sep- 
tember number of " Harper's Magazine," and which began 
by asserting that — " Under our complex system of gov- 


ernment it is the first duty of American statesmen to mark 
distinctly the dividing-line between Federal and Local au- 
thority." It was an elaborate argument for " popular sov- 
ereignty " and attracted national attention. Indeed, at the 
moment it was the talk of the county. Lincoln literally tore 
it to bits. 

" What is Judge Douglas's popular sovereignty? " he 
asked. " It is, as a principle, no other than that if one 
man chooses to make a slave of another man, neither that 
other man nor anybody else has a right to object. Applied 
in government, as he seeks to apply it, it is this: If, in a 
new territory into which a few people are beginning to 
enter for the purpose of making their homes, they choose 
to either exclude slavery from their limits or to establish it 
there, however one or the other may affect the persons to 
be enslaved, or the infinitely greater number of persons who 
are afterward to inhabit that Territory, or the other mem- 
bers of the families of communities, of which they are but 
an incipient member, or the general head of the family of 
States as parent of all — however their action may affect one 
or the other of these, there is no power or right to interfere. 
That is Douglas's popular sovereignty applied." 

It was in this address that Lincoln uttered the oft-quoted 
paragraphs : 

" I suppose the institution of slavery really looks small 
to him. He is so put up by nature that a lash upon his back 
would hurt him, but a lash upon anybody else's back does 
not hurt him. That is the build of the man, and conse- 
quently he looks upon the matter of slavery in this unim- 
portant light. 

" Judge Douglas ought to remember, when he is endeav- 
oring to force this policy upon the American people, that 
while he is put up in that way, a good many are not. He 
ought to remember that there was once in this country a 
man by the name of Thomas Jefferson, supposed to be a 
Democrat — a man whose principles and policy are not very 


prevalent amongst Democrats to-day, it is true; but that 
man did not take exactly this view of the insignificance of 
the element of slavery which our friend Judge Douglas 
does. In contemplation of this thing, we all know he was led 
to exclaim, ' I tremble for my country when I remember that 
God is just!' We know how he looked upon it when he 
thus expressed himself. There was danger to this country, 
danger of the avenging justice of God, in that little unim- 
portant popular-sovereignty question of Judge Douglas. He 
supposed there was a question of God's eternal justice 
wrapped up in the enslaving of any race of men, or any 
man, and that those who did so braved the arm of Jehovah — 
that when a nation thus dared the Almighty, every friend of 
that nation had cause to dread his wrath. Choose ye be- 
tween Jefferson and Douglas as to what is the true view 
of this element among us." 

One interesting point about the Columbus address is that 
in it appears the germ of the Cooper Institute speech deliv- 
ered five months later in New York City. 

Lincoln made so deep an impression in Ohio by his 
speeches that the State Republican Committee asked per- 
mission to publish them together with the Lincoln-Douglas 
Debates as campaign documents in the presidential election 
of the next year. 

In December he yielded to the persuasion of his Kansas 
political friends and delivered five lectures in that State, 
only fragments of which have been preserved. 

Unquestionably the most effective piece of work he did 
that winter was the address at Cooper Institute, New York, 
on February 27. He had received an invitation in the fall 
of 1859 to lecture at Plymouth Church, Brooklyn. To his 
friends it was evident that he was greatly pleased by the 
compliment, but that he feared that he was not equal to 
an Eastern audience. After some hesitation he accepted, 
provided they would take a political speech if he could find 



From photograph by Brady. The debate with Douglas in 1858 had given Lincoln a 
national reputation, and the following year he received many invitations to lecture. 
One came from a young men's Republican club in New York. Lincoln consented, and 
in February, 1860 (about three months before his nomination for the presidency), de- 
livered what is known, from the hall in which it was delivered, as the "Cooper Institute 
speech." While in New York he was taken by the committee of entertainment to 
Brady's gallery, and sat for the portrait reproduced above. It was a frequent remark 
with Lincoln that this portrait and the Cooper Institute speech made him President. 


time to get up no other. When he reached New York he 
found that he was to speak there instead of Brooklyn, and 
that he was certain to have a distinguished audience. Fear- 
ful lest he was not as well prepared as he ought to be, con- 
scious, too, no doubt, that he had a great opportunity before 
him, he spent nearly all of the two days and a half before 
his lecture in revising his matter and in familiarizing him- 
self with it. In order that he might be sure that he was 
heard he arranged with his friend, Mason Brayman, who 
had come on to New York with him, to sit in the back of 
the hall and in case he did not speak loud enough to raise 
his high hat on a cane. 

Mr. Lincoln's audience was a notable one even for New 
York. It included William Cullen Bryant, who introduced 
him, Horace Greeley, David Dudley Field and many more 
well known men of the day. It is doubtful if there were 
any persons present, even his best friends, who expected 
that Lincoln would do more than interest his hearers by his 
sound arguments. Many have confessed since that they 
feared his queer manner and quaint speeches would amuse 
people so much that they would fail to catch the weight of 
his logic. But to the surprise of everybody Lincoln im- 
pressed his audience from the start by his dignity and his 
seriousness. " His manner was, to a New York audience, a 
very strange one, but it was captivating," wrote an auditor. 
" He held the vast meeting spellbound, and as one by one his 
oddly expressed but trenchant and convincing arguments 
confirmed the soundness of his political conclusions, the 
house broke out in wild and prolonged enthusiasm. I think 
I never saw an audience more thoroughly carried away by an 

The Cooper Union speech was founded on a sentence from 
one of Douglas's Ohio speeches * — " Our fathers when they 
framed the government under which _ we live understood 


this question just as well, and even better, than we do now." 
Douglas claimed that the " fathers " held that the Constitu- 
tion forbade the Federal government controlling slavery in 
the Territories. Lincoln with infinite care had investigated 
the opinions and votes of each of the " fathers " — whom 
he took to be the thirty-nine men who signed the Constitu- 
tion — and showed conclusively that a majority of them 
(< certainly understood that no proper division of local from 
Federal authority nor any part of the Constitution forbade 
the Federal government to control slavery in the Federal 
Territories." Not only did he show this of the thirty-nine 
framers of the original Constitution, but he defied anybody 
to show that one of the seventy-six members of the Con- 
gress which framed the amendments to the Constitution ever 
held any such view. 

" Let all," he said, " who believe that ' our fathers who 
framed the government under which we live understood this 
question just as well, and even better, than we do now/ speak 
as they spoke, and act as they acted upon it. This is all Re- 
publicans ask — all Republicans desire — in relation to slav- 
ery. As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, 
as an evil not to be extended, but to be tolerated and pro- 
tected only because of and so far as its actual presence among 
us makes that toleration and protection a necessity. Let all 
the guaranties those fathers gave it be not grudgingly, but 
fully and fairly, maintained. For this Republicans contend, 
and with this, so far as I know or believe, they will be con- 

One after another he took up and replied to the charges 
the South was making against the North at the moment : — 
Sectionalism, radicalism, giving undue prominence to the 
slave question, stirring up insurrection among slaves, refus- 
ing to allow constitutional rights, and to each he had an un- 
impassioned answer impregnable with facts. 


The discourse was ended with what Lincoln felt to be a 
precise statement of the opinion of the question on both 
sides, and of the duty of the Republican party under the cir- 
cumstances. This portion of his address is one of the finest 
early examples of that simple and convincing style in which 
most of his later public documents were written. 

" If slavery is right," he said, " all words, acts, laws, and 
constitutions against it are themselves wrong, and should be 
silenced and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly 
object to its nationality — its universality ; if it is wrong, they 
cannot justly insist upon its extension — its enlargement. All 
they ask we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right ; 
all we ask they could as readily grant, if they thought it 
wrong. Their thinking it right and our thinking it wrong 
is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. 
Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for de- 
siring its full recognition as being right; but thinking it 
wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our 
votes with their view, and against our own ? In view of our 
moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this ? 

" Wrong, as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it 
alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity 
arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, 
while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the 
national Territories, and to overrun us here in these free 
States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand 
by our duty fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted 
by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are 
so industriously plied and belabored — contrivances such as 
groping for some middle ground between the right and the 
wrong : vain as the search for a man who should be neither 
a living man nor a dead man ; such as a policy of * don't care ' 
on a question about which all true men do care; such as 
Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Dis- 
unionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the 
sinners, but the righteous to repentance ; such as invocations 
to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington 
said and undo what Washington did. 


" Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false ac- 
cusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of 
destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. 
Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith 
let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it." 

From New York Lincoln went to New Hampshire to 
visit his son Robert, then at Phillips Exeter Academy. His 
coming was known only a short time before he arrived and 
hurried arrangements were made for him to speak at Con- 
cord, Manchester, Exeter and Dover. At Concord the ad- 
dress was made in the afternoon on only a few hours' notice, 
nevertheless, he had a great audience, so eager were men at 
the time to hear anybody who had serious arguments on the 
slavery question. Something of the impression Lincoln made 
in New Hampshire may be gathered from the following ar- 
ticle, " Mr. Lincoln in New Hampshire," which appeared 
in the Boston " Atlas and Bee " for March 5 : 

The Concord " Statesman " says that notwithstanding the 
rain of Thursday, rendering travelling very inconvenient, the 
largest hall in that city was crowded to hear Mr. Lincoln. 
The editor says it was one of the most powerful, logical and 
compacted speeches to which it was ever our fortune to lis- 
ten; an argument against the system of slavery, and in de- 
fence of the position of the Republican party, from the de- 
ductions of which no reasonable man could possibly escape. 
He fortified every position assumed, by proofs which it is 
impossible to gainsay ; and while his speech was at intervals 
enlivened by remarks which elicited applause at the expense 
of the Democratic party, there was, nevertheless, not a single 
word which tended to impair the dignity of the speaker, or 
weaken the force of the great truths he uttered. 

The " Statesman " adds that the address " was perfect, 
and was closed by a peroration which brought his audience 
to their feet. We are not extravagant in the remark, that a 
political speech of greater power has rarely if ever been ut- 
tered in the Capital of New Hampshire. At its conclusio 


nine roof-raising cheers were given; three for the speaker, 
three for the Republicans of Illinois, and three for the Re- 
publicans of New Hampshire." 

On the same evening Mr. Lincoln spoke at Manchester, to 
an immense gathering in Smyth's Hall. The " Mirror," a 
neutral paper, gives the following enthusiastic notice of his 
speech : " The audience was a flattering one to the reputa- 
tion of the speaker. It was composed of persons of all sorts 
of political notions, earnest to hear one whose fame was so 
great, and we think most of them went away thinking better 
of him than they anticipated they should. He spoke an hour 
and a half with great fairness, great apparent candor, and 
with wonderful interest. He did not abuse the South, the 
Administration, or the Democrats, or indulge in any person- 
alities, with the solitary exception of a few hits at Doug- 
las's notions. He is far frori prepossessing in personal ap- 
pearance, and his voice is disagreeable, and yet he wins your 
attention and gc^d will from the start. 

" He indulges in no flowers of rhetoric, no eloquent pas- 
■sages ; he is not a wit, a humorist or a clown ; yet, so great a 
vein of pleasantry and good nature pervades what he says, 
gilding over a deep current of practical argument, he keeps 
his hearers in a smiling good mood with their mouths open 
ready to swallow all he says. His sense of the ludicrous is 
very keen, and an exhibition of that is the clincher of all his 
arguments; not the ludicrous acts of persons, but ludicrous 
ideas. Hence he is never offensive, and steals away willingly 
into his train of belief, persons who are opposed to him. 
For the first half hour his opponents would agree with every 
word he uttered, and from that point he began to lead them 
off, little by little, cunningly, till it seemed as if he had got 
them all into his fold. He displays more shrewdness, more 
knowledge of the masses of mankind than any public speaker 
we have heard since long Jim Wilson left for California." 

From New Hampshire Lincoln went to Connecticut, 
where on March 5 he spoke at Hartford, on March 6 at New 
Haven, on March 8 at Woonsocket, on March 9 at Norwich. 
There are no reports of the New Hampshire speeches, but 


two of the Connecticut speeches were published in part and 
one in full. Their effect was very similar, according to the 
newspapers of the day, to that in New Hampshire, described 
by the " Atlas and Bee." 

By his debates with Douglas and the speeches in Ohio, 
Kansas, New York and New England, Lincoln had become 
a national figure in the minds of all the political leaders of 
the country, and of the thinking men of the North. Never 
in the history of the United States had a man become 
prominent in a more logical and intelligent way. At the 
beginning of the struggle against the repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise in 1854, Abraham Lincoln was scarcely known 
outside of his own State. Even most of the men whom he 
had met in his brief term in Congress had forgotten him. 
Yet in four years he had become one of the central figures 
of his party ; and now, by worsting the greatest orator and 
politician of his time, he had drawn the eyes of the nation to 

It had been a long road he had travelled to make himself 
a national figure. Twenty-eight years before he had delib- 
erately entered politics. He had been beaten, but had per- 
sisted; he had succeeded and failed; he had abandoned the 
struggle and returned to his profession. His outraged sense 
of justice had driven him back, and for six years he had 
travelled up and down Illinois trying to prove to men that 
slavery extension was wrong. It was by no one speech, by 
no one argument that he had wrought. Every day his cease- 
less study and pondering gave him new matter, and every 
speech he made was fresh. He could not repeat an old 
speech, he said, because the subject enlarged and widened 
so in his mind as he went on that it was " easier to make a 
new one than an old one." He had never yielded in his cam- 
paign to tricks of oratory — never played on emotions. He 
had been so strong in his convictions of the rip-ht of his case 


that his speeches had been arguments pure and simple. Their 
elegance was that of a demonstration in Euclid. They per- 
suaded because they proved. He had never for a momeni 
counted personal ambition before the cause. To insure an 
ardent opponent of the Kansas-Nebraska bill in the United 
States Senate, he had at one time given up his chance for 
the senatorship. To show the fallacy of Douglas's argu- 
ment, he had asked a question which his party pleaded with 
him to pass by, assuring him that it would lose him the elec- 
tion. In every step of these six years he had been disinter- 
ested, calm, unyielding, and courageous. He knew he was 
right, and could afford to wait. " The result is not doubt- 
ful," he told his friends. " We shall not fail — if we stand 
firm. We shall not fail. W T ise counsels may accelerate or 
mistakes delay it ; but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to 

The country, amazed at the rare moral and intellectual 
character of Lincoln, began to ask questions about him, and 
then his history came out; a pioneer home, little schooling, 
few books, hard labor at all the many trades of the frontiers- 
man, a profession mastered o' nights by the light of a 
friendly cooper's fire, an early entry into politics and law — 
and then twenty-five years of incessant poverty and strug- 

The homely story gave a touch of mystery to the figure 
which loomed so large. Men felt a sudden reverence for a 
mind and heart developed to these noble proportions in so 
unfriendly a habitat. They turned instinctively to one so 
familiar with strife for help in solving the desperate prob- 
lem with which the nation had grappled. And thus it was 
that, at fifty years of age, Lincoln became a national figure. 

Lincoln's nomination in i860 

The possibility of Abraham Lincoln becoming the presi- 
dential candidate of the Republican party in i860 was proba- 
bly first discussed by a few of his friends in 1856. The dra- 
matic speech which in May of that year gave him the leader- 
ship of his party in Illinois, and the unexpected and flatter- 
ing attention he received a few weeks later at the Republican 
national convention suggested the idea; but there is no evi- 
dence that anything more was excited than a little specu- 
lation. The impression Lincoln made two years later in the 
Lincoln and Douglas debates kindled a different feeling. It 
convinced a number of astute Illinois politicians that ju- 
dicious effort would make Lincoln strong enough to justify 
the presentation of his name as a candidate in i860 on the 
ground of pure availability. 

One of the first men to conceive this idea was Jesse W. 
Fell, a local politician of Bloomington, Illinois. During the 
Lincoln and Douglas debates Fell was travelling in the 
Middle and Eastern States. He was surprised to find that 
Lincoln's speeches attracted general attention, that many 
papers copied liberally from them, and that on all sides men 
plied him with questions about the career and personality 
of the new man. Before Fell left the East he had made up 
his mind that Lincoln must be pushed by his own State as its 
presidential candidate. One evening, soon after returning 
home, he met Lincoln in Bloomington, where the latter was 
attending court, and drew him into a deserted law-office for a 
confidential talk. 



" I have been East, Lincoln," said he, " as far as Boston, 
and up into New Hampshire, travelling in all the New Eng- 
land States, save Maine; in New York, New Jersey, Penn- 
sylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana; and everywhere I 
hear you talked about. Very frequently I have been asked, 
* Who is this man Lincoln, of your State, now canvassing 
in opposition to Senator Douglas ? ' Being, as you know, 
an ardent Republican and your friend, I usually told them 
we had in Illinois two giants instead of one; that Douglas 
was the little one, as they all knew, but that you were the big 
one, which they didn't all know. 

" But, seriously, Lincoln, Judge Douglas being so widely 
known, you are getting a national reputation through him, 
and the truth is, I have a decided impression that if your 
popular history and efforts on the slavery question can be 
sufficiently brought before the people, you can be made a 
formidable, if not a successful, candidate for the presi- 

" What's the use of talking of me for the presidency," 
was Lincoln's reply, " whilst we have such men as Seward, 
Chase, and others, who are so much better known to the peo- 
ple, and whose names are so intimately associated with r*A2 
principles of the Republican party ? Everybody knows them ; 
nobody scarcely outside of Illinois knows me. Besides, is 
it not, as a matter of justice, due to such men, who have car- 
ried this movement forward to its present status, in spite of 
fearful opposition, personal abuse, and hard names ? I really 
think so." 

Fell continued his persuasions, and finally requested Lin- 
coln to furnish him a sketch of his life which could be put 
out in the East. The suggestion grated on Lincoln's sensi- 
bilities. He had no chance. Why force himself? "Fell," 
he said, rising and wrapping his old gray shawl around his 
tall figure, " I admit that I am ambitious and would like to 


be President. I am not insensible to the compliment you pay 
me and the interest you manifest in the matter ; but there is 
no such good luck in store for me as the presidency of these 
United States. Besides, there is nothing in my early history 
that would interest you or anybody else ; and, as Judge Da- 
vis says, ' it won't pay.' Good night/' And he disappeared 
into the darkness. 

Lincoln's defeat in November, 1858, in the contest for 
the United States senatorship, in no way discouraged his 
friends. A few days after the November election, when it 
was known that Douglas had been reelected senator, the Chi- 
cago " Democrat," then edited by " Long John " Went- 
worth, printed an editorial, nearly a column in length, headed 
" Abraham Lincoln." His work in the campaign then just 
closed was reviewed and commended in the highest terms. 

" His speeches," the " Democrat " declared, " will be 
recognized for a long time to come as the standard authori- 
ties upon those topics which overshadow all others in the 
political world of our day ; and our children will read them 
and appreciate the great truths which they so forcibly incul- 
cate, with even a higher appreciation of their worth than 
*heir fathers possessed while listening to them. 

" We, for our part," said the " Democrat " further, " con- 
sider that it would be but a partial appreciation of his services 
to our noble cause that our next State Republican Convention 
should nominate him for governor as unanimously and en- 
thusiastically as it did for senator. With such a leader and 
with our just cause, we would sweep the State from end to 
end, with a triumph so complete and perfect that there would 
be scarce enough of the scattered and demoralized forces of 
the enemy left to tell the story of its defeat. And this State 
should also present his name to the National Republican 
Convention, first for President and next for Vice-President. 
We should then say to the United States at large that in our 
opinion the Great Man of Illinois is Abraham Lincoln, and 
none other than Abraham Lincoln." 


All through the year 1859 a few men in Illinois worked 
quietly but persistently to awaken a demand throughout the 
State for Lincoln's nomination. The greater number of 
these were lawyers on Lincoln's circuit, his life-long friends, 
men like Judge Davis, Leonard Swett, and Judge Logan, 
who not only believed in him, but loved him, and whose ef- 
forts were doubly effective because of their affection. In ad- 
dition to these were a few shrewd politicians who saw in 
Lincoln the " available " man the situation demanded ; and 
a group represented by John M. Palmer, who, remembering 
Lincoln's magnanimity in throwing his influence to Trum- 
bull in 1854, in order to send a sound Anti-Nebraska man 
to the United States Senate, wanted, as Senator Palmer him- 
self put it, to " pay Lincoln back." Then there were a few 
young men who had been won by Lincoln in the debates 
with Douglas, and who threw youthful enthusiasm and con- 
viction into their support. The first time his name was sug- 
gested as a candidate in the newspapers, indeed, was because 
the young editor of the Central Illinois " Gazette," Mr. W. 
O. Stoddard, had caught a glimpse of Lincoln's inner might 
and concluding in a sudden burst of boyish exultation 
that Lincoln was " the greatest man he had ever seen or 
heard of," had rushed off and written an editorial nominat- 
ing him for the presidency ; this editorial was published on 
May 4, 1859. 

The work which these men did at this time cannot be 
traced with any definiteness. It consisted mainly in " talk- 
ing up " their candidate. They were greatly aided by the 
newspapers. The press, indeed, followed a concerted plan 
that had been carefully laid out by the Republican State 
Committee in the office of the Chicago " Tribune." To give 
an appearance of spontaneity to the newspaper canvass it 
was arranged that the country papers should first take, up 
Lincoln's name. Joseph Medill, editor of thft " Tribune," 


and secretary of the committee, says that a Rock Island pa- 
per opened the campaign. 

Lincoln soon felt the force of this effort in his behalf. 
Letters came to him from unexpected quarters, offering aid. 
Everywhere he went on the circuit, men sought him to dis- 
cuss the situation. In the face of an undoubted movement 
for him he quailed. The interest was local ; could it ever be 
more ? Above all, had he the qualifications for President of 
the United States? He asked himself these questions as he 
pondered a reply to an editor who had suggested announc- 
ing his name, and he wrote ; " I must in all candor say I 
do not think myself fit for the presidency. ,, 

This was in April, 1859. In the July following he still 
declared himself unfit. Even in the following November 
he had little hope of nomination. " For my single self," he 
wrote to a correspondent who had suggested the putting of 
his name on the ticket, " I have enlisted for the permanent 
success of the Republican cause, and for this object I shall 
labor faithfully in the ranks, unless, as I think not probable, 
the judgment of the party shall assign me a different posi- 

The last weeks of 1859 and the first of i860 convinced 
Lincoln, however, that, fit or not, he was in the field. Fell, 
who as corresponding secretary of the Republican State Cen- 
tral Committee had been travelling constantly in the inter- 
ests of the organization, brought him such proof that his 
candidacy was generally approved of, that in December, 
1859, he consented to write the " little sketch " of his life 
now known as Lincoln's " autobiography." 

He wrote it with a little inward shrinking, a half shame 
that it was so meagre. " There is not much of it," he apolo- 
gized in sending the document, " for the reason, I suppose, 
that there is not much of me. If anything be made out of it, 
I wish it to be modest, and not to go beyond the material." 


By the opening of i860 Lincoln had concluded that, 
though he might not be a very promising candidate, at all 
events he was now in so deep that he must have the approval 
of his own State, and he began to work in earnest for that. 
" I am not in a position where it would hurt much for me to 
not be nominated on the national ticket," he wrote to Nor- 
man B. Judd, " but I am where it would hurt some for me 
to not get the Illinois delegates. . . . Can you help me 
a little in your end of the vineyard? " 

The plans of the Lincoln men were well matured. About 
the first of December, 1859, Medill had gone to Washing- 
ton, ostensibly as a " Tribune " correspondent, but really to 
promote Lincoln's nomination. " Before writing any Lin- 
coln letters for the " Tribune,'" says Mr. Medill in his 
" Reminiscences," " I began preaching Lincoln among the 
Congressmen. I urged him chiefly upon the ground of 
availability in the close and doubtful States, with what 
seemed like reasonable success." 

February 16, i860, the " Tribune " came out editorially 
for Lincoln, and Medill followed a few days later with a 
ringing letter from Washington, naming Lincoln as a can- 
didate on whom both conservative and radical sentiment 
could unite, and declaring that he now heard Lincoln's name 
mentioned for President in Washington " ten times as often 
as it was one month ago." About the time when Medill was 
writing thus, Norman B. Judd, as member of the Republican 
National Committee, was executing a manoeuvre the impor- 
tance of which no one realized but the Illinois politicians. 
This was securing the convention for Chicago. 

As the spring passed and the counties of Illinois held their 
conventions, Lincoln found that, save in the North, where 
Seward was strong, he was unanimously recommended as the 
candidate at Chicago. When the State Convention met at 
Decatur, May 9 and 10, he received an ovation of so 



picturesque and unique a character that it colored all the rest 
of the campaign. The delegates were in session when Lin- 
coln came in as a spectator and was invited to a seat on the 
platform. Soon after, Richard Oglesby, one of Lincoln's 
ardent supporters, asked that an old Democrat of Macon 
County be allowed to offer a contribution to the convention. 
The offer was accepted, and a curious banner was borne up 
the hall. The standard was made of two weather-worn 
fence-rails, decorated with flags and streamers, and bearing 
the inscription : 




Two rails from a lot of 3,000 made in 1830 
by Thos. Hanks and Abe Lincoln — whose 
father was the first pioneer of Macon County. 

A storm of applause greeted the banner, followed by cries 
of " Lincoln ! Lincoln ! " Rising, Lincoln said pointing to 
the banner, " I suppose I am expected to reply to that. I can- 
not say whether I made those rails or not, but I am quite 
sure I have made a great many just as good." The speech 
was warmly applauded, and one delegate, an influential Ger- 
man and an ardent Seward man, George Schneider, after wit- 
nessing the demonstration, turned to his neighbor and said, 
" Seward has lost the Illinois delegation." He was right; 
for when, later, John M. Palmer brought forth a resolution 
that " Abraham Lincoln is the choice of the Republican party 
of Illinois for the presidency, and the delegates from this 
State are instructed to use all honorable means to secure his 
nomination by the Chicago Convention, and to vote as a 
unit for him," it was enthusiastically adopted. 

While the politicians of Illinois were thus preparing for 
the campaign, the Reuublicans of the East hardly realized 


From a copy of a photograph owned by Mrs. Cyrus Aldrich. Reproduced 
here through the courtesy of Mr. Daniel Fish, of Minneapolis. 


that Lincoln was or could be made a possibility. In the first 
four months of i860 his name was almost unmentioned as a 
presidential candidate in the public prints of the East. In 
a list of twenty-one " prominent candidates for the presi- 
dency in i860," prepared by D. W. Bartlett and published 
in New York towards the end of 1859, Lincoln's name is 
not mentioned; nor does it appear in a list of thirty- four of 
" our living representative men," prepared for presidential 
purposes by John Savage, and published in Philadelphia in 
i860. The most important notice at this period of which we 
know was a casual mention in an editorial in the New York 
"Evening Post," February 15. The " Post " considered 
it time for the Republicans to speak out about the nominee 
at the coming convention, and remarked : " With such men 
as Seward and Chase, Banks and Lincoln, and others in 
plenty, let us have two Republican representative men to 
vote for." This was ten days before the Cooper Union 
speech and the New England tour, which undoubtedly did 
much to recommend Lincoln as a logical and statesmanlike 
thinker and debater, though there is no evidence that it cre- 
ated him a presidential following in the East, save, perhaps, 
in New Hampshire. Indeed it was scarcely to be expected 
that prudent and conservative men would conclude that, 
because he could make a good speech, he would make 
a good President. They knew him to be comparatively un- 
trained in public life and comparatively untried in large af- 
fairs. They naturally preferred a man who had a record for 
executive statesmanship. 

Up to the opening of the convention in May there was, in 
fact, no specially prominent mention of Lincoln by the East- 
ern press. Greeley, intent on undermining Seward, though 
as yet nobody perceived him to be so, printed in the New 
York weekly " Tribune" — the paper which went to the coun- 
try at large — correspondence favoring the nomination of 


Bates and Read, McLean and Bell, Cameron, Fremont, Day- 
ton, Chase, Wade; but not Lincoln. The New York " Her- 
ald " of May i, in discussing editorially the nominee of the 
" Black Republicans,'' recognized " four living, two dead, 
aspirants." The " living " were Seward, Banks, Chase, and 
Cameron; the " dead," Bates and McLean. May 10 " The 
Independent," in an editorial on " The Nomination at Chi- 
cago," said : " Give us a man known to be true upon the only 
question that enters into the canvass — a Seward, a Chase, a 
Wade, a Sumner, a Fessenden, a Banks." But it did not 
mention Lincoln. His most conspicuous Eastern recogni- 
tion before the convention was in " Harper's Weekly " of 
May 12, his face being included in a double page of portraits 
of " eleven prominent candidates for the Republican presi- 
dential nomination at Chicago." Brief biographical sketches 
appeared in the same number — the last and the shortest of 
them being of Lincoln. 

It was on May 16 that the Republican Convention of 
i860 formally opened at Chicago, but for days before the 
city was in a tumult of expectation and preparation. The 
audacity of inviting a national convention to meet there, in 
the condition in which Chicago chanced to be at that time, 
was purely Chicagoan. No other city would have risked it. 
In ten years Chicago had nearly quadrupled its population, 
and it was believed that the feat would be repeated in the 
coming decade. In the first flush of youthful energy and 
ambition the town had undertaken the colossal task of rais- 
ing itself bodily out of the grassy marsh, where it had been 
originaMy placed, to a level of twelve feet above Lake Michi- 
gan, and of putting underneath a good, solid foundation. 
When the invitation to the convention was extended, half 
the buildings in Chicago were on stilts ; some of the streets 
had been raised to the new grade, others still lay in the mud ; 


half the sidewalks were poised high on piles, and half were 
still down on a level with the lake. A city with a conven- 
tional sense of decorum would not have cared to be seen in 
this demoralized condition, but Chicago perhaps conceived 
that it would but prove her courage and confidence to show 
the country what she was doing ; and so she had the conven- 
tion come. 

But it was not the convention alone which came. Besides 
the delegates, the professional politicians, the newspaper 
men, and the friends of the several candidates, there came a 
motley crowd of men hired to march and to cheer for par- 
ticular candidates, — a kind of out-of-door claque which did 
not wait for a point to be made in favor of its man, but went 
off in rounds of applause at the mere mention of his name. 
New York brought the greatest number of these professional 
applauders, the leader of them being a notorious prize-fighter 
and street politician, — " a sort of white black-bird/' says 
Bromley, — one Tom Hyer. With the New York delega- 
tion, which numbered all told fully two thousand Seward 
men, came Dodworth's Band, one of the celebrated musical 
organizations of that day. 

While New York sent the largest number, Pennsylvania 
was not far behind, there being about one thousand five hun- 
dred persons present from that State. From New England, 
long as was the distance, there were many trains of excur- 
sionists. The New England delegation took Gilmore's Band 
with it, and from Boston to Chicago stirred up every commu- 
nity in which it stopped, with music and speeches. Several 
days before the convention opened fully one-half of the mem- 
bers of the United States House of Representatives were in 
the city. To still further increase the throng were hundreds 
of merely curious spectators whom the flattering inducements 
of the fifteen railroads centring in Chicago at that time had 



tempted to take a trip. There were fully forty thousand 
strangers in the city during the sitting of the convention. 

The streets for a week were the forum of this multitude. 
Processions for Seward, for Cameron, for Chase, for Lin- 
coln, marched and counter-marched, brave with banners and 
transparencies, and noisy with country bands and hissing 
rockets. Every street corner became a rostrum, where im- 
promptu harangues for any of a dozen candidates might be 
happened upon. In this hurly-burly two figures were particu- 
larly prominent: Tom Hyer, who managed the open-air 
Seward demonstration, and Horace Greeley, who was con- 
ducting independently his campaign against Seward. Gree- 
ley, in his fervor, talked incessantly. It was only necessary 
for some one to say in a rough but friendly way, " There's 
old Greeley," and all within hearing distance grouped about 
him. Not infrequently the two or three to whom he began 
speaking increased until that which had started as a conver- 
sation ended as a speech. 

In this half-spontaneous, half -organized demonstration of 
the streets, Lincoln's followers were conspicuous. State 
pride made Chicago feel that she must stand by her own. 
Lincoln banners floated across every street, and buildings 
and omnibuses were decorated with Lincoln emblems. When 
the Illinois delegation saw that New York and Pennsylva- 
nia had brought in so many outsiders to create enthusiasm 
for their respective candidates, they began to call in sup- 
porters from the neighboring localities. Leonard Swett says 
that they succeeded in getting together fully ten thousand 
men from Illinois and Indiana, ready to rnarch, shout, or 
fight for Lincoln, as the case required. 

Not only was the city full of people days before the con- 
vention began, but the delegations had organized and actual 
work was in progress. Every device conceivable by an in- 
genious opposition was resorted to in order to weaken Sew- 


ard, the most formidable of the candidates. The night be- 
fore the opening of the convention a great mass meeting was 
held in the Wigwam. The Seward men had arranged to 
have only advocates of their own candidate speak. But the 
clever opposition detected the game, and William D. Kelley 
of Pennsylvania, who was for Lincoln or for Wade, got the 
floor and held it until nearly midnight, doggedly talking 
against time until an audience of twelve thousand had 
dwindled to less than one thousand. 

One of the first of the delegations to begin activities was 
that of Illinois. The Tremont House had been chosen as its 
headquarters, and here were gathered almost all the influen- 
tial friends Lincoln had in the State. They came determined 
to win if human effort could compass it, and men never put 
more intense and persistent energy into a cause. Judge Da- 
vis was naturally the head of the body; but Judge Logan, 
Leonard Swett, John M. Palmer, Richard Oglesby, N. B. 
Judd, Jesse W. Fell, and a score more were with him. " We 
worked like nailers," Governor Oglesby often declared in 
after years. 

The effort for Lincoln had to begin in the Illinois delega- 
tion itself. In spite of the rail episode at Decatur, the State 
convention was by no means unanimous for Lincoln. " Our 
delegation was instructed for him," wrote Leonard Swett 
to Josiah Drummond,* " but of the twenty-two votes in it, 
by incautiously selecting the men, there were eight who 
would have gladly gone for Seward. The reason of this is 
in this fact: the northern counties of this State are more 
overwhelmingly Republican than any other portion of the 
continent. I could pick twenty-five contiguous counties giv- 
ing larger Republican majorities than any other adjacent 

*This letter, written by Mr. Swett on May 27, i860, to Josiah Drum- 
mond of Maine, is one of the best documents on the convention. It 
was published in the New York " Sun" of July 26, 1891, and is printed 
in O. H. Oldroyd's " Lincoln's Campaign." 


counties in any State. The result is, many people there are 
for Seward, and such men had crept upon the delegation. 
They intended in good faith to go for Lincoln, but talked 
despondingly, and really wanted and expected finally to vote 
as I have indicated. We had also in the North and about 
Chicago a class of men who always want to turn up on the 
winning side, and who would do no work, although their 
feelings were really for us, for fear it would be the losing 
element and would place them out of favor with the incom- 
ing power. These men were dead weights. The centre and 
South, with many individual exceptions to the classes I have 
lamed, were warmly for Lincoln, whether he won or lost. 

" The lawyers of our circuit went there determined to 
leave no stone unturned; and really they, aided by some of 
our State officers and a half dozen men from various por- 
tions of the State, were the only tireless, sleepless, unwaver- 
ing, and ever vigilant friends he had." 

The situation which the Illinois delegation faced, briefly 
put, was this: the Republican party had in i860 but one 
prominent candidate, William H. Seward. By virtue of his 
great talents, his superior cultivation, and his splendid serv- 
ices in anti-slavery agitation, he was the choice of the ma- 
jority of the Republican party. It was certain that at the 
opening of the convention he would have nearly enough 
votes to nominate him. But still there was a considerable 
and resolute opposition. The grounds of this were several, 
but the most substantial and convincing was that Illinois, 
Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey all declared that 
they could not elect Seward if he was nominated. Andrew 
G. Curtin of Pennsylvania, and Henry S. Lane of Indiana, 
candidates for governor in their respective States, were both 
his active opponents, not from dislike of him, but because 
they were convinced that they would themselves be defeated 
if he headed the Republican ticket. It was clear to the en- 


tire party that Pennsylvania and Indiana were essential to 
Republican success ; and since many States with which Sew- 
ard was the first choice held success in November as more 
important than Seward, they were willing to give their sup- 
port to an " available " man. But the difficulty was to unite 
this opposition. Nearly every State which considered Sew- 
ard an unsafe candidate had a " favorite son " whom it was 
pushing as " available." Pennsylvania wanted Cameron; 
New Jersey, Dayton ; Ohio, Chase, McLean, or Wade ; Mas- 
sachusetts, Banks; Vermont, Collamer. Greeley, who alone 
was as influential as a State delegation, urged Bates of Mis- 

Illinois's task was to unite this opposition on Lincoln. 
She began her work with a next-door neighbor. " The first 
State approached," says Mr. Swett, " was Indiana. She 
was about equally divided between Bates and McLean.* 
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were spent upon her, when 
finally she came to us, unitedly, with twenty-six votes, and 
from that time acted efficiently with us." 

With Indiana to aid her, Illinois now succeeded in draw- 
ing a few scattering votes, in making an impression on New 
Hampshire and Virginia, and in persuading Vermont to 
think of Lincoln as a second choice. Matters began to look 
decidedly cheerful. May 14 (Monday) the New York 
" Herald's " last despatch declared that the contest had nar- 
rowed down to Seward, Lincoln, and Wade. The Boston 
" Herald's " despatch of the same day reported ; " Abe Lin- 
coln is booming up to-night as a compromise candidate, and 
his friends are in high spirits." And this was the situation 
when the convention finally opened on Wednesday, May 16. 

The assembly-room in which the convention met was situ- 

* Mr. Joseph Medill once told the writer that half the Indiana dele- 
gation had been won for Lincoln on the ground of availability before 
the convention met. 



ated conveniently at the corner of Market and Lake Streets. 
It had been built especially for the occasion by the Chicago 
Republican Club, and in the fashion of the West in that day 
was called by the indigenous name of Wigwam. It was a 
low, characterless structure, fully one hundred and eighty 
feet long by one hundred feet wide. The roof rose in the 
segment of a circle, so that one side was higher than 
the other; and across this side and the two ends were 
deep galleries. Facing the ungalleried side was a plat- 
form reserved for the delegates — a great floor one hundred 
and forty feet long and thirty-five feet deep, raised some four 
feet from the ground level, with committee-rooms at each 
end. This vast structure of pine boards had been rescued 
from ugliness through the energetic efforts of the commit- 
tee, assisted by the Republican women of the city, who, 
scarcely less interested than their husbands and brothers, 
strove in every way to contribute to the success of the con- 
vention. They wreathed the pillars and the galleries with 

masses of green; hung 
banners and flags ; 
brought in busts of Amer- 
ican notables ; ordered 
great allegorical paintings 
of Justice, Liberty, and 
the like, to suspend on the 
walls; borrowed the 
whole series of Healy por- 
traits of American states- 
men — in short, made the 
chair occupied by the chairman of Wigwam at least gay and 

ti™ oTim' CAN NATIONAL CONVEN " festive in as P ect - Foreign 
it was the first chair made in the state of interest added something 

Michigan.— Reproduced from " Harper's {-q ftlQ f umishin°"S * the 

Weekly " of May 19, 1860, by permission ° ' 

Of Messrs. Harper and Brothers. chair placed On the plat- 



form for the use of the chairman of the convention was do- 
nated by Michigan, as the first chair made in that State. 
It was an arm-chair of the most primitive description, the 
seat dug out of an immense log and mounted on large rock- 
ers. Another chair, one made for the occasion, attracted a 
great deal of attention. It was constructed of thirty-four 
kinds of wood, each piece from a different State or Terri- 
tory, Kansas being appropriately represented by the "weep- 
ing willow" a symbol of her grief at being still excluded 
from the sisterhood of States. The gavel used by the chair- 
man was more interesting even than his chair, having been 
made from a fragment of Commodore Perry's brave Law- 

Into the Wigwam, on the morning of the 16th of May, 
there crowded fully ten thousand persons. To the spectator 
in the gallerythe scene was vividly picturesque and animated. 
Around him were packed hundreds of women, gay in the 
high-peaked, flower-filled bonnets and the bright shawls and 
plaids of the day. Below, on the platform and floor, were 
many of the notable men of the United States — William M. 
Evarts, Thomas Corwin, Carl Schurz, David Wilmot, Thad- 
deus Stevens, Joshua Giddings, George William Curtis, 
Francis P. Blair and his two sons, Andrew H. Reeder, 
George Ashmun, Gideon Welles, Preston King, Cassius M. 
Clay, Gratz Brown, George S. Boutwell, Thurlow Weed. 
In the multitude the newspaper representatives outnumbered 
the delegates. Fully nine hundred editors and reporters 
were present, a body scarcely less interesting than the con- 
vention itself. Horace Greeley, Samuel Bowles, Murat Hal- 
stead, Isaac H. Bromley, Joseph Medill, Horace White, Jo- 
seph Hawley, Henry Villard, A. K. McClure, names so fa- 
miliar to-day, all represented various journals at Chicago 
in i860, and in some cases were active workers in the cau- 
cuses. It was evident at once that the members of the con* 


vention — some five hundred out of the attendant ten thousand 
— were not more interested in its proceedings than the spec- 
tators, whose approval and disapproval, quickly and em- 
phatically expressed, swayed, and to a degree controlled, the 
delegates. Wednesday and Thursday mornings were passed 
in the usual opening work of a convention. While officers 
were formally elected and a platform adopted, the real in- 
terest centred in the caucuses, which were held almost unin- 
terruptedly. Illinois was in a frenzy of anxiety. " No men 
ever worked as our boys did," wrote Mr. Swett; " I did not, 
the whole week, sleep two hours a night." They ran from 
delegation to delegation, haranguing, pleading, promising. 
But do their best they could not concentrate the opposition. 
" Our great struggle," says Senator Palmer, " was to pre- 
vent Lincoln's nomination for the vice-presidency. The 
Seward men were perfectly willing that he should go on the 
tail of the ticket. In fact, they seemed determined that he 
should be given the vice-presidential nomination. We were 
not troubled so much by the antagonism of the Seward men 
as by the overtures they were constantly making to us. They 
literally overwhelmed us with kindness. Judge David Davis 
came to me in the Tremont House, greatly agitated at the 
way things were going. He said : ' Palmer, you must go 
with me at once to see the New Jersey delegation/ I asked 
what I could do. i Well/ said he, ' there is a grave and 
venerable judge over there who is insisting that Lincoln 
shall be nominated for Vice-President and Seward for 
President. We must convince the judge of his mistake/ 
We went; I was introduced to the gentleman, and we 
talked about the matter for some time. He praised Sew- 
ard, but he was especially effusive in expressing his ad- 
miration for Lincoln. He thought that Seward was clearly 
entitled to first place and that Lincoln's eminent merits 
entitled him to second place. I listened for some time, 



and then said : ' Sir, you may nominate Mr. Lincoln 
for Vice-President if you please. But I want you to 
understand that there are 40,000 Democrats in Illinois who 
will support this ticket if you give them an opportunity. We 
are not Whigs, and we never expect to be Whigs. We will 
never consent to support two old Whigs on this ticket. We 
are willing to vote for Mr. Lincoln with a Democrat on the 
ticket, but we will not consent to vote for two Whigs.' I 
have seldom seen a more indignant man. Turning to Judge 
Davis he said : * Judge Davis, is it possible that party spirit 
so prevails in Illinois that Judge Palmer properly represents 
public opinion? ' ' Oh,' said Davis, affecting some distress 
at what I had said, ' oh, Judge, you can't account for the 
conduct of these old Locofocos.' * Will they do as Palmer 
says ? ' ' Certainly. There are 40,000 of them, and, as 
Palmer says, not one of them will vote for two Whigs.' We 
left the New Jersey member in a towering rage. When 
we were back at the Tremont House I said : ' Davis, you 
are an infernal rascal to sit there and hear that man be- 
rate me as he did. You really seemed to encourage him.' 
Judge Davis said nothing, but chuckled as if he had greatly 
enjoyed the joke. This incident is illustrative of the kind 
of work we had to do. We were compelled to resort to this 
argument — that the old Democrats then ready to affiliate 
with the Republican party would not tolerate two Whigs on 
the ticket — in order to break up the movement to nominate 
Lincoln for Vice-President. The Seward men recognized 
in Lincoln their most formidable rival, and that was why 
they wished to get him out of the way by giving him second 
place on the ticket." 

The uncertainty on Thursday was harrowing, and if the 
ballot had been taken on the afternoon of that day, as was at 
first intended, Seward probably would have been nominated. 
Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania all felt this, and shrewdly 


managed to secure from the convention a reluctant adjourn- 
ment until Friday morning. In spite of the time this ma- 
noeuvre gave, however, Seward's nomination seemed sure; 
so Greeley telegraphed the "Tribune" at midnight on Thurs- 
day. At the same hour the correspondent of the " Herald " 
(New York) telegraphed: 'The friends of Seward are 
firm, and claim ninety votes for him on the first ballot. Op- 
position to Seward not fixed on any man. Lincoln is the 
strongest, and may have altogether forty votes. The various 
delegations are still caucusing." 

It was after these messages were sent that Illinois and In- 
diana summoned all their energies for a final desperate effort 
to unite the uncertain delegates on Lincoln, and that Penn- 
sylvania went through the last violent throes of coming to a 
decision. The night was one of dramatic episodes of 
which none, perhaps, was more nearly tragic than the spec- 
tacle of Seward's followers, confident of success, celebrating 
in advance the nomination of their favorite, while scores of 
determined men laid the plans ultimately effective, for his 
overthrow. All night the work was kept up. " Hundreds 
of Pennsylvanians, Indianians, and Illinoisans," says Murat 
Halstead, " never closed their eyes. I saw Henry S. Lane 
at one o'clock, pale and haggard, with cane under his arm, 
walking as if for a wager from one caucus-room to another 
at the Tremont House. In connection with them he had been 
operating to bring the Vermonters and Virginians to the 
point of deserting Seward." 

In the Pennsylvania delegation, which on Wednesday had 
agreed on McLean as its second choice and Lincoln as its third, 
a hot struggle was waged to secure the vote of the delegation 
as a unit for Cameron until a majority of the delegates di- 
rected otherwise. Judge S. Newton Pettis, who proposed 
this resolution, worked all night to secure votes for it at the 
caucus to be held early in the morning. The Illinois men 



ran from delegate to caucus, from editor to outsider. No 
man who knew Lincoln and believed in him, indeed, was al- 
lowed to rest, but was dragged away to this or that delegate 
to persuade him that the "rail candidate,". as Lincoln had 
already begun to be called, was fit for the place. Colonel 
Hoyt, then a resident of Chicago, spent half the night telling 
Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania what he knew of Lin- 
coln. While all this was going on, a committee of twelve men 
from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and 
Iowa were consulting in the upper story of the Tremont 
House. Before their session was over they had agreed that 
in case Lincoln's votes reached a specified number on the 
following day, the votes of the States represented in that 
meeting, so far as these twelve men could effect the result, 
should be given to him. 

The night was over at last, and at ten o'clock the conven- 
tion reassembled. The great Wigwam was packed with a 
throng hardly less excited than the members of the actual 
convention, while without, for blocks away, a crowd double 
that within pushed and strained, every nerve alert to catch 
the movements of the convention. 

The nominations began at once, the Hon. William M. 
Evarts presenting the name of William H. Seward. The 
New Yorkers had prepared a tremendous claque, which now 
broke forth — " a deafening shout which," says Leonard 
Swett, " I confess, appalled us a little." But New York in 
preparing her claque had only given an idea to Illinois. The 
Illinois committee, to offset it, had made secret but complete 
preparations for what was called a " spontaneous demonstra- 
tion." From lake front to prairie the committee had col- 
lected every stentorian voice known, and early Friday 
morning, while Seward's men were marching exultantly 
about the streets, the owners of these voices had been packed 
into the Wigwam, where their special endowment would be 


most effective. The women present had been requested to 
wave their handkerchiefs at every mention of Lincoln's 
name, and hundreds of flags had been distributed to be used 
in the same way. A series of signals had been arranged to 
communicate to the thousands without the moment when a 
roar from them might influence the convention within. 
When N. B. Judd nominated Lincoln th ; s machinery began 
to work. It did well; but a moment later, in greeting the 
seconding of Seward's nomination, New York out-bellowed 
Illinois. " Caleb B. Smith of Indiana then seconded the 
nomination of Lincoln," says Mr. Swett, " and the West 
came to his rescue. No mortal ever before saw such a scene. 
The idea of us Hoosiers and Suckers being outscreamed 
would have been as bad to them as the loss of their man. 
Five thousand people at once leaped to their seats, women 
not wanting in the number, and the wild yell made soft 
vesper breathings of all that had preceded. No language 
can describe it. A thousand steam whistles, ten acres of 
hotel gongs, a tribe of Comanches, headed by a choice van- 
guard from pandemonium, might have mingled in the scene 

As the roar died out a voice cried, "Abe Lincoln has it by 
the sound now; let us ballot!" and Judge Logan, beside 
himself with screeching and excitement, called out : d< Mr. 
President, in order or out of order, I propose this convention 
and audience give three cheers for the man who is evidently 
their nominee." 

The balloting followed without delay. The Illinois men 
believed they had one hundred votes to start with; on 
counting they found they had 102. More hopeful still, no 
other opposition candidate approached them. Pennsyl- 
vania's man, according to the printed reports of that day, 
had but fifty and one-half votes ; Greeley's man, forty-eight ; 
Chase, forty-nine; while McLean. Pennsylvania's second 


choice, had but twelve. If Seward was to be beaten, it must 
be now; and it was for Pennsylvania to say. The delega- 
tion hurried to a committee-room, where Judge Pettis, dis- 
regarding the action of the caucus by which McLean had 
been adopted as the delegation's second choice, moved that, 
on the second ballot, Pennsylvania's vote be cast solidly for 
Lincoln. The motion was carried. Returning to the hall 
the delegation found the second ballot under way. In a 
moment the name of Pennsylvania was called. The whole 
Wigwam heard the answer : " Pennsylvania casts her fifty- 
two votes for Abraham Lincoln." The meaning was clear. 
The break to Lincoln had begun. New York sat as if 
stupefied, while all over the hall cheer followed cheer. 

It seemed but a moment before the second ballot was 
ended, and it was known that Lincoln's vote had risen from 
102 to 181. The tension as the third ballot was taken was 
almost unbearable. A hundred pencils kept score while the 
delegations were called, and it soon became apparent that 
Lincoln was outstripping Seward. The last vote was hardly 
given before the whisper went around, " Two hundred and 
thirty-one and one-half for Lincoln ; two and one-half more 
will give him the nomination." An instant of silence fol- 
lowed, in which the convention grappled with the idea, and 
tried to pull itself together to act. The chairman of the 
Ohio delegation was the first to get his breath. " Mr. Presi- 
dent," he cried, springing on his chair and stretching out 
his arm to secure recognition, " I rise to change four votes 
from Mr. Chase to Mr. Lincoln." 

It took a moment to realize the truth. New York saw it, 
and the white faces of her noble delegation were bowed in 
despair. Greeley saw it, and a guileless smile spread over 
his features as he watched Thurlow Weed press his hand 
hard against his wet eyelids. Illinois saw it, and tears 
poured from the eyes of more than one of the overwrought, 


devoted men as they grasped one another's hands and vainly 
struggled against the sobs which kept back their shouts. 
The crowd saw it, and broke out in a mad hurrah. u The 
scene which followed/' wrote one spectator, " baffles all 
human description. After an instant's silence, as deep as 
death, which seemed to be required to enable the assembly to 
take in the full force of the announcement, the wildest and 
mightiest yell (for it can be called by no other name) burst 
forth from ten thousand voices which we ever heard from 
mortal throats. This strange and tremendous demonstra- 
tion, accompanied with leaping up and down, tossing hats, 
handkerchiefs, and canes recklessly into the air, with the 
waving of flags, and with every other conceivable mode of 
exultant and unbridled joy, continued steadily and without 
pause for perhaps ten minutes. 

" It then began to rise and fall in slow and billowing 
bursts, and for perhaps the next five minutes these stupen- 
dous waves of uncontrollable excitement, now rising into the 
deepest and fiercest shouts, and then sinking like the ground 
swell of the ocean into hoarse and lessening murmurs, rolled 
through the multitude. Every now and then it would seem 
as though the physical power of the assembly was exhausted 
and that quiet would be restored, when all at once a new 
hurricane would break out, more prolonged and terrific than 
anything before. If sheer exhaustion had not prevented, we 
don't know but the applause would have continued to this 

Without, the scene was repeated. At the first instant of 
realization in the Wigwam a man on the platform had 
shouted to a man stationed on the roof, " Hallelujah ; Abe 
Lincoln is nominated ! " A cannon boomed the news to 
the multitude below, and twenty thousand throats took 
up the cry. The city heard it, and one hundred guns on 
the Tremont House, innumerable whistles on the river and 


take front, on locomotives and factories, and the bells in 
all the steeples, broke forth. For twenty-four hours the 
clamor never ceased. It spread to the prairies, and 
before morning they were afire with pride and excite- 

And while all this went on, where was Lincoln? Too 
much of a candidate, as he had told Swett, to go to Chicago, 
yet hardly enough of one to stay away, he had ended by re- 
maining in Springfield, where he spent the week in restless 
waiting and discussion. He drifted about the public square, 
went often to the telegraph office, looked out for every 
returning visitor from Chicago, played occasional games of 
ball, made fruitless efforts to read, went home at unusual 
hours. He felt in his bones that he had a fighting chance, so 
he told a friend, but the chance was not so strong that he 
could indulge in much exultation. By Friday morning he 
was tired and depressed, but still eager for news. One of 
his friends, the Hon. James C. Conkling, returned early in 
the day from Chicago, and Lincoln soon went around to his 
law office. " Upon entering," says Mr. Conkling, " Lincoln 
threw himself upon the office lounge, and remarked rather 
wearily, ' Well, I guess I'll go back to practising law.' As 
he lay there on the lounge, I gave him such information as 
I had been able to obtain. I told him the tendency was to 
drop Seward ; that the outlook for him was very encourag- 
ing. He listened attentively, and thanked me, saying I had 
given him a clearer idea of the situation than he had been able 
to get from any other source. He was not very sanguine of 
the result. He did not express the opinion that he would be 

But he could not be quiet, and soon left Mr. Conkling, to 
join the throng around the telegraph office, where the reports 
from the convention were coming in. The nominations 
were being reported, his own among the others. Then new? 


came that the balloting had begun. He could not endure to 
wait for the result. He remembered a commission his wife 
had given him that morning, and started across the square to 
execute it. His errand was done, and he was standing in the 
door of the shop, talking, when a shout went up from the 
group at the telegraph office. The next instant an excited 
boy came rushing pell-mell down the stairs of the office, and, 
plunging through the crowd, ran across the square, shouting, 
" Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln, you are nominated! " The cry 
was repeated on all sides. The people came flocking about 
him, half laughing, half crying, shaking his hand when they 
could get it, and one another's when they could not. For a 
few minutes, carried away by excitement, Lincoln seemed 
simply one of the proud and exultant crowd. Then remem- 
bering what it all meant, he said, " My friends, I am glad to 
receive your congratulations, and as there is a little woman 
down on Eighth street who will be glad to hear the news, you 
must excuse me until I inform her." He slipped away, 
telegram in hand, his coat-tails flying out behind, and strode 
towards home, only to find when he reached there that his 
friends were before him, and that the " little woman " al- 
ready knew that the honor which for twenty years and more 
she had believed and stoutly declared her husband deserved, 
and which a great multitude of men had sworn to do their 
best to obtain for him, at last had come. 



Thirty-six hours after Lincoln received the news of 
his nomination, an evening train from Chicago brought 
to Springfield a company of distinguished-looking strangers. 
As they stepped from their coach cannon were fired, rockets 
set off, bands played, and enthusiastic cheering went up from 
a crowd of waiting people. A long and noisy procession ac- 
companied them to their hotel and later to a modest two- 
storied house in an unfashionable part of the town. The 
gentlemen whom the citizens of Springfield received with 
such demonstration formed the committee, sent by the Re- 
publican National Convention to notify Abraham Lincoln 
that he had been nominated as its candidate for the presi- 
dency of the United States. 

The delegation had in its number some of the most distin- 
guished workers of the Republican party of that day : — Mr. 
George Ashmun, Samuel Bowles, and Governor Boutwell 
of Massachusetts, William M. Evarts of New York, Judge 
Kelley of Pennsylvania, David K. Carter of Ohio, Francis P. 
Blair of Missouri, the Hon. Gideon Welles of Connecticut, 
Amos Tuck of New Hampshire, Carl Schurz of Wisconsin. 
Only a few of these gentlemen had ever seen Mr. Lincoln 
and to many of them his nomination had been a bitter dis- 

As the committee filed into Mr. Lincoln's simple home 
there was a sore misgiving in more than one heart, and as 
Mr. Ashmun, their chairman, presented to him the letter no- 
tifying him of his nomination they eyed their candidate with 



critical keenness. They noted his great height; his huge 
hands and feet ; his peculiar lankness of limb. His shoulders 
drooped as he stood, giving his form a look of irresolution. 
His smooth shaven face seemed of bronze as he listened to 
their message and amazed them by its ruggedness. The 
cheeks were sunken, the cheek bones high, the nose large, 
the mouth unsymmetrical, the under lip protruding a little. 
Irregular seams and lines cut and creased the skin in every 
direction. The eyes downcast as he listened were sunken 
and somber. Shaded by its mass of dark hair, the face gave 
an impression of a sad impenetrable man. 

Mr. Ashmun finished his speech and Mr. Lincoln lifting 
his bent head began to reply. The men who watched him 
thrilled with surprise at the change which passed over him. 
His drooping form became erect and firm. The eyes beamed 
with fire and intelligence. Strong, dignified and self-pos- 
sessed, he seemed transformed by the simple act of self-ex- 

His remarks were brief, merely a word of thanks for the 
honor done him, a hint that he felt the responsibility of his 
position, a promise to respond formally in writing and the 
expression of a desire to take each one of the committee by 
hand, but his voice was calm and clear, his bearing frank 
and sure. His auditors saw in a flash that here was a man 
who was master of himself. For the first time they under- 
stood that he whom they had supposed to be little more than 
a loquacious and clever State politician, had force, insight, 
conscience, that their misgivings were vain. " Why, sir, they 
told me he was a rough diamond," said Governor Boutwell 
to one of Lincoln's townsmen, " nothing could have been in 
better taste than that speech.' ' And a delegate who had 
voted against Lincoln in the convention, turning to Carl 
Schurz, said, " Sir, we might have done a more daring thing, 
but we certainly could not have done a better thing," and it 


was with that feeling that the delegation, two hours later, 
left Mr. Lincoln's home, and it was that report they carried 
to their constituents. 

But one more formality now remained to complete the 
ceremony of Abraham Lincoln's nomination to the presi- 
dency, — his letter of acceptance. This was soon written. 
The candidates of the opposing parties all sent out letters of 
acceptance in i860 which were almost political platforms in 
themselves. Lincoln decided to make his merely an accept- 
ance with an expression of his intention to stand by the 
party's declaration of principles. He held himself rigidly 
to this decision, his first address to the Republican party be- 
ing scarcely one hundred and fifty words in length. Though 
so short, it was prepared with painstaking attention. He 
even carried it when it was finished to a Springfield friend, 
Dr. Newton Bateman, the State Superintendent of Educa- 
tion, for correction. 

" Mr. Schoolmaster/' he said, " here is my letter of ac- 
ceptance, I am not very strong on grammar and I wish you 
to see if it is all right. I wouldn't like to have any mis- 
takes in it." 

The doctor took the MS. and after reading it, said: 

" There is only one change I should suggest, Mr. Lincoln, 
you have written ' It shall be my care to not violate or disre- 
gard it in any part,' you should have written ' not to violate.' 
Never split an infinitive, is the rule." 

Mr. Lincoln took the manuscript, regarding it a moment 
with a puzzled air, " So you think I better put those two lit- 
tle fellows end to end, do you ? " he said as he made the 

His nomination an accomplished fact, the all-important 
question for Mr. Lincoln was " can I be elected." Six 
months before when he had asked himself " Can I be nomi- 
nated? " he had been forced tc reply " Not probable." Even 


the veiy morning of the nomination he had said despond* 
ently to a friend, " I guess I'll go back to practising law/'' 
but now when he asked himself " Can I be elected ? " the an- 
swer he gave was far from uncertain. With the tables of 
the popular vote since 1856 before him he reckoned his 
chances. Twenty-four States out of the thirty-three which 
then formed the Union had taken part in the Chicago Conven- 
tion. These twenty- four States held 234 of the 303 electoral 
votes to be cast. On how many of them could he depend? 
In 1856 the first time the party had appeared in a presiden- 
tial contest it had secured for Fremont eleven States,* 114 
electoral votes. On these Lincoln felt he still could count. 
But that was not enough, nor was it all the Republicans 
claimed. The growth of the party had been steady and 
vigorous since 1856. The whole country saw that if the 
Chicago Convention chose a presidential candidate accepta- 
ble to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois, those 
States would certainly go Republican. Lincoln added their 
votes to the 114 of the certain States. It gave him 169— a 
respectable majority of the 303 which the electoral college 
would cast. 

The tables were in his favor; but that was not all in the 
situation which encouraged him. Lincoln saw that, as his 
nomination in Chicago had been largely the result of dis- 
agreement among the Republicans, so there was a possibility 
of his election being the result of quarrels among the Demo- 
crats. The National Democratic Convention had met in 
Charleston, South Carolina, on April 23. From the open- 
ing, the sessions were stormy. One vital difference divided 
the body. The South was determined that a platform should 
be adopted stating unequivocally that slaves could be car- 

* The states which went for Fremont in 1856 were Connecticut, Iowa 
Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hamoshire. New York, Ohio. 
Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin. 


ried into the Territories and that neither Congressional nor 
Territorial legislation could interfere with them. The De- 
mocracy of the North was determined to adopt a platform 
in which Douglas's doctrine of popular sovereignty was 
the central plank. The time had been when the South had 
been thoroughly satisfied with the Douglas theory; that it 
was not so now was due largely to Lincoln. He had discov- 
ered that Douglas in presenting his attractive dogma that the 
people of the States should be left to regulate their domestic 
concerns in their own way, subject only to the Constitution, 
gave one interpretation in the South, another in the North. 
Knowing that Illinois would never consent to the doctrine 
as the South understood it, nor the South to the Northern 
notion, Lincoln forced Douglas in 1858 in a debate at Free- 
port, Illinois, to explain his meaning. Illinois was satisfied 
with the explanation, but the South saw the deceit. From 
the day of the Freeport Debate Douglas's power in the 
South declined. When the Charleston Convention met the 
Southern Democrats were fully determined to defeat the 
man who had so nearly persuaded them to a doctrine which 
he interpreted according to the prejudices of the section in 
which he spoke. When a Douglas platform was adopted by 
the convention they withdrew. The upshot of this seces- 
sion was that the two factions called fresh conventions to 
meet in Baltimore in June. There the Northern Democracy 
nominated as its candidates Douglas and Johnson. A few 
days later the Southern Democrats named Breckinridge and 

Thus when Lincoln was nominated his opponents were di- 
vided. The opposition to him was still further weakened by 
the appearance of a sporadic party the Constitutional Union 
which in a vague and general platform shirked the very pre- 
cise and vital question at issue and declared finely for " thd 
Constitution of the countrv, the Union of the States, and the 


enforcement of the laws/' This party nominated Bell and 
Everett, known as the " Kangaroo Ticket " because " the 
hind part was the stronger." 

The tables were in his favor. If his own party stood by 
him, he felt sure of his election. There was every sign that 
it would. " So far as I can learn," he wrote his friend 
Washburne a few days after the convention, " the nomina- 
tions start well everywhere; and, if they get no back-set, it 
would seem as if they were going through." 

The " start " of the nominations had in fact been very 
good. Nothing more jubilant could have been conceived 
than the reception given Lincoln's name in the Northwest. 
" There won't be a tar barrel left in Illinois to-night," said 
Douglas, in Washington, to his senatorial friends, who 
asked him when the news of the nomination reached them, 
" Who is this man Lincoln, anyhow? " Douglas was right. 
Not only the tar barrels but half the fences of the State 
went up in the fire of rejoicing. 

The demonstrations in the Middle States and in the East 
were hardly less exultant. There was a striking difference 
in them, however. In the Northwest it was the candidate, in 
the rest of the country the platform and the probability of its 
success, which inspired the popular outbursts. And this was 
inevitable, so little was Lincoln known outside of his own 
part of the country. The orators at the ratification meet- 
ings of the East found it necessary to look up his history to 
tell their audiences who he was. The newspapers printed 
biographical sketches, and very meagre ones they were; for 
up to this time almost no details of his life had been pub- 
lished. These facts filled many a serious-minded Republi- 
can with dismay. To them there seemed but one explana- 
tion for the choice of Lincoln over the heads of so many more 
experienced and distinguished men — it had been a political 
trick born of the sentiment " Anvthing to beat Seward." " I 


remember," says a Republican of i860, " that when I first 
read the news on a bulletin board as I came down street in 
Philadelphia that I experienced a moment of intense physical 
pain, it was as though some one had dealt me a heavy blow 
over the head, then my strength failed me. I believed our 
cause was doomed." 

The opposition press found in Lincoln's obscurity abundant 
editorial material. He was a " third-rate country lawyer, 
poorer even than poor Pierce," said the New York " Herald." 
Of course, he would be a " nullity " if he were elected. How 
could a man be otherwise who had never done anything but 
deliver a few lectures and get himself beaten by Douglas in 
the campaign of '58. They hooted at his " coarse and clumsy 
jokes," declared that he " could not speak good grammar," 
and that all he was really distinguished for was rail-split- 
ting, running a " broad-horn," and bearing the sobriquet of 
" honest old Abe." The snobbishness of the country came 
out in full. He was not a gentleman; that is, he did not 
know how to wear clothes, perhaps sat at times in shirt 
sleeves, tilted back his chair. He could quote neither Latin 
nor Greek, had never travelled, had no pedigree. 

The Republican press took up the gauntlet. To the charge 
that he would be a " nullity " the " Tribune " replied "A man 
who by his own genius and force of character has raised 
himself from being a penniless and uneducated flat boatman 
on the Wabash River to the position Mr. Lincoln now oc- 
cupies is not likely to be a nullity anywhere." And Bryant 
answered all the sneering by a noble editorial in which he 
claimed Mr. Lincoln to be " A Real Representative Man." 
Nevertheless the eagerness with which the Republican 
press hastened to show that Lincoln was not the coarse back- 
woodsman the Democrats painted him showed how much 
they winced under the charges. Reporters were sent West 
to describe his home, his family, and his habits, in order to 


prove that he did not live in " low Hoosier st)de." They 
told with great satisfaction that he wore daily a broadcloth 
suit " almost elegant," they described his modest home as a 
" mansion " and " an elegant two-story dwelling " and they 
never failed to note that Mrs. Lincoln spoke French fluently 
and that he had a son in Harvard College. When they could 
with reasonable certainty connect him with the Lincolns of 
Hingham, Mass., they heralded his " good blood " with 
pride and marshalled the Lincolns who had distinguished 
themselves in the history of the country. 

Among the common people the jeers that Lincoln was 
but a rail-splitter was a spur to enthusiasm. Too many 
of the solid men of the North had swung an axe, too many 
of them had passed from log hut to mansion, not to blaze 
with sympathetic indignation when the party was taunted 
with nominating a backwoodsman. The rail became their 
emblem and their rallying cry, and the story of the rail 
fence Lincoln had built a feature of every campaign speech 
and every country store discussion. In a week after his 
nomination two rails declared to have been split by Lincoln 
were on exhibition in New York, and certain zealous Penn- 
sylvanians had sent to Macon, 111., asking to buy the whole 
fence and have it shipped East. It was the rail which deco- 
rated campaign medals, inspired campaign songs, appeared 
in campaign cartoons. There was something more than a 
desire to " stand by the candidate " in the enthusiasm. At 
bottom it was a popular vindication of the American way ot 
making a man. 

More important to Lincoln than any popular enthusiasm 
was the ratification given his nomination by the rival candi- 
dates. What would they do? The whole party held its 
breath until Seward was heard from. No man could have 
taken a crushing defeat more nobly. He was at his home in 
Auburn, New York, on May 18, the day of the nomination, 


and when the news of Lincoln's success was brought him, 
his informer told him that there was not a Republican to be 
found in town who had the heart left to write an editorial 
for the " Daily Advertiser " approving the nomination. 
Seward smilingly took his pen and wrote the following para- 
graph, which appeared that evening: — 

" No truer exposition of the Republican creed could be 
given, than the platform adopted by the convention con- 
tains. No truer or firmer defenders of the Republican faith 
could have been found in the Union, than the distinguished 
and esteemed citizens on whom the honors of the nomination 
have fallen. Their election, we trust by a decisive majority, 
will restore the Government of the U. S. to its Constitutional 
and ancient course. Let the watch-word of the Republican 
party be ' Union and Liberty/ and onward to victory." 

A few days later Seward went to Washington where a 
number of disappointed and rebellious Republicans called 
upon him to offer their condolence. " Mr. Seward," they 
said, " we cannot accept this situation. We want you to 
bolt the nomination and run on an independent ticket." 

Mr. Seward smiled : " Gentlemen," he said, " your zeal 
outruns your discretion. There are many of you giving this 
advice now, say perhaps three hundred. Two weeks hence 
there would be one hundred and fifty and the next week fifty. 
After that only William H. Seward. No, gentlemen, the 
Republican party was not made for William H. Seward, but 
Mr. Seward, if he is worth anything for the Republican 
party, and I believe I have still work to do, I must therefore 
decline to accept your advice. I have had some experience 
of this kind. I ran once as a candidate for the nomination 
to the governorship of New York; I was defeated; my 
friends wanted me to bolt and run independently, but I de- 
clined. My opponent who had received the nomination, was 
defeated in the election. I would have been defeated. 


Another year I did receive the nomination and I was elected, 
but if I had consented in the first place to bolt the regular 
nominee I would never have received the nomination regu- 
larly a second time and so would never have been Governor 
of New York."* 

Seward wrote Lincoln very soon congratulating him and 
promising support. So did the other leading rivals. The 
letters were grateful to Lincoln. " Holding myself the hum- 
blest of all those whose names were before the convention, ,, 
he wrote Chase, " I feel in special need of the assistance of 
all; and I am glad — very glad — of the indication that you 
stand ready." 

With these congratulations and promises of support from 
his rivals came others from men not less known. Joshua 
Giddings wrote Lincoln an admirable letter on May 19 : 

" Dear Lincoln : You're nominated. You will be elected. 
After your election, thousands will crowd around you, claim- 
ing rewards for services rendered. I, too, have my claims 
upon you. I have not worked for your nomination, nor for 
that of any other man. I have labored for the establishment 
of principles ; and when men came to me asking my opinion 
of you, I only told them, ' Lincoln is an honest man.' All 
I ask of you in return for my services is, make my statement 
good through your administration. Yours, Giddings." 

Lincoln soon saw that not only the strong men of his party 
were supporting him, but that they were working harmoni- 
ously in an excellent organization. The Republicans all 
agreed with the " Tribune " that " the election of Mr. Lin- 
coln though it could not be accomplished without work, was 
eminently a thing that could be done," and they set themselves 
vigorously to do it. As the partv was composed largely of 
young men who felt that the cause was worthy of their best 

* The Hon. H. L. Dawes in interview corrected by him and published 
with his permission. 


efforts, great zest and ingenuity were thrown into the cam- 
paigning. Arrangements were immediately made for a sys- 
tematic stumping of the whole country. The speakers en- 
gaged were of a very high order, among them being Sum- 
ner, Seward, Chase, Cassius M. Clay, Greeley, Stevens. 
Many of the speeches were of more than usual dramatic in- 
terest. Such was Sumner's great speech at Cooper Institute, 
July 11, on " The Origin, Necessity and Permanence of the 
Republican Party." It was the first speech Sumner had made 
in public since the attack on him in the Senate in 1856, and 
attracted immense attention. Seward made a five weeks' trip 
through the West, often speaking several times a day. No 
one worked harder than Carl Schurz. " I began speaking 
shortly after the convention/' Mr. Schurz once told the 
author, " and continued until the day of the election, mak- 
ing from one to three speeches, with the exception of 
about ten days in September when I was so fatigued that I 
had to stop for a little while. I spoke in both English and 
German, under the auspices of the National Committee and 
not only in the larger towns, but frequently also in country 
districts." No speaker of the campaign touched the people 
more deeply. " Young, ardent, aspiring," said the New 
York " Evening Post," in speaking of Mr. Schurz, " the ro- 
mances connected with his life and escape from his father- 
land, his scholarly attainments, and, above all, his devotion 
to the principles which cast him an exile on our shores, have 
all combined to render him dear to the hearts of his country- 
men and to place him in the foremost rank of their leaders." 
Beside this educational work on the stump was that by 
pamphlets. After the campaign lives of Lincoln and Ham- 
lin, of which there were many,* the " campaign tracts " is- 

* On May 19, the day after the nominations were made, five different 
lives of Lincoln were announced by the New York " Evening Post." 
The first to ?ppear was the Wigwam Edition, which was ready at the 


sued by the " Tribune " were the most widely circulated docu* 
merits. There were several of these, the most popular being 
Carl Schurz's speech on the Doom of Slavery, and Seward's 
on the Irrepressible Conflict. There was at the same time, 
of course, an immense amount done in the press, and much 
of it by the ablest literary men the United States has pro- 
duced, thus Lowell wrote essays for the "Atlantic," Whittier 
verses for the " Tribune " and the " Atlantic," Bryant, Gree- 
ley, Raymond, Bowles editorials for their journals. 

The Republican campaign of i860 had one distinguishing 
feature, — the Wide Awakes, bands of torch-bearers who in 
a simple uniform of glazed cap and cape, and carrying col- 
ored lanterns or blazing coal-oil torches, paraded the streets 
of almost every town of the North throughout the summer 
and fall, arousing everywhere the wildest enthusiasm. Their 
origin was purely accidental. In February, Cassius M. Clay 
spoke in Hartford, Connecticut. A few ardent young Re- 
publicans accompanied him as a kind of body guard, and to 
save their garments from the dripping of the torches a few 
of them wore improvised capes of black glazed cambric. The 
uniform attracted so much attention that a campaign club 
formed in Hartford soon after adopted it. This club called 
itself the Wide- A wakes. Other clubs took up the idea, and 
soon there were Wide-Awakes drilling regularly from one 
end of the North to the other. 

A great many fantastic movements were invented by them, 
a favorite one being a peculiar zig-zag march — an imita- 

beginning of June. The best were those by W. D. Howells and David 
W. Bartlett. 

The Illinois " State Journal" of June 5, i860, quoted a paragraph from 
the Cincinnati " Commercial" to the effect that "it is stated that there 
have already been fifty-two applications to Mr. Lincoln to write hi* 

The "Journal " of June 15, i860, said that none of the numerous biog- 
raphies announced by publishers as " authorized " or the "only author- 
ized" has been in fact authorized by Mr. Lincoln. "He is ignorant o* 
their contents and is not responsible for anvthina they contain." 


tion of the party emblem — the rail-fence. Numbers of the 
clubs adopted the rules and drills of the Chicago Zouaves — 
one of the most popular military organizations of the day. 
In the summer of i860 Colonel Ellsworth, the commanding 
officer of the Zouaves, brought them East. The Wide- 
Awake movement was greatly stimulated by this tour of the 

Almost all of the clubs had their peculiar badges, Lincoln 
splitting rails or engineering a flat-boat being a favorite deco- 
ration for them. There were many medals worn as well. 
Many of these combined business and politics adroitly, the 
obverse advising you to " vote for the rail-splitter," the re- 
verse to buy somebody's soap, or tea, or wagons. 

Many of the clubs owned Lincoln rails which were given 
the place of honor on all public occasion and the " Origin- 
als," as the Hartford Wide-Awakes were called, possessed 
the identical maul with which Lincoln had split the rails for 
the famous fence. It had been secured in Illinois together 
with such weighty credentials that nobody could dispute its 
claim, and was the pride of the club. It still is to be seen in 
Hartford occupying a conspicuous place in the collection of 
the Connecticut Historical Society. 

Campaign songs set to familiar airs were heard on every 
hand. Many of these never had more than a local vogue, 
but others were sung generally. One of the most ringing 
was E. C. Stedman's " Honest Abe of the West," sung to 
the air of " The Star Spangled Banner " : 

"Then on to the holy Republican strife! 

And again, for a future as fair as the morning, 
For the sake of that freedom more precious than life, 

Ring out the grand anthem of Liberty's warning ! 
Lift the banner on high, while from mountain and plain, 

The cheers of the people are sounded again; 
Hurrah ! for our cause— of all causes the best ! 
Hurrah! for Old Abe, Honest Abe of the Westl" 


One of the campaign songs which will never be forgotten 
was Whittier's " The Quakers Are Out : — " 

'* Give the flags to the winds ! 

Set the hills all aflame ! 
Make way for the man with 

The Patriarch's name ! 
Away with misgivings — away 

With ail doubt, 
For Lincoln goes in when the 

Quakers are cut ! " 

In many of the States great rallies were held at central 
points, at which scores of Wide-Awake clubs and a dozen 
popular speakers were present. The most enthusiastic of all 
these was held in Mr. Lincoln's own home, Springfield, on 
August 8. Fully 75,000 people gathered for the celebration, 
by far the greater number coming across the prairies on 
horseback or in wagons. A procession eight miles long filed 
by Mr. Lincoln's door. 

Mr. E. B. Washburne, who was with Mr. Lincoln in 
Springfield that day, says of this mass meeting : 

" It was one of the most enormous and impressive gath- 
erings I had ever witnessed. Mr. Lincoln, surrounded by 
some intimate friends, sat on the balcony of his humble 
home. It took hours for all the delegations to file before 
him, and there was no token of enthusiasm wanting. He 
was deeply touched by the manifestations of personal and 
political friendships, and returned all his salutations in that 
off-hand and kindly manner which belonged to him. I know 
of no demonstration of a similar character that can com- 
pare with it except the review by Napoleon of his army for 
the invasion of Russia, about the same season of the year in 

From May until November this work for the ticket went 
on steadily and ardently. Mr. Lincoln during all this time 
remained quietly in Springfield. The conspicuous position 
in which he was placed made almost no d>%rence in his sim- 


pie life. He was the same genial, accessible, modest man as 
ever, his habits as unpretentious, his friendliness as great. 
The chief outward change in his daily round was merely one 
of quarters. It seemed to his friends that neither his home 
nor his dingy law office was an appropriate place in which 
to receive his visitors and they arranged that a room in the 
State House which stood on. the village green in the centre 
of the town, be put at his disposal. He came down to this 
office every morning about eight o'clock, always stopping 
on his way in his old cordial fashion to ask the news or ex- 
change a story when he met an acquaintance. Frequently 
he went to the post-office himself before going to his office 
and came out his arms loaded with letters and papers. 

He had no regular hours for visitors; there was no cere- 
mony for admittance to his presence. People came when 
they would. Usually they found the door open ; if it was not, 
it was Mr. Lincoln's own voice which answered, " come in," 
to their knock. These visitors were a strange medley of the 
curious, the interested and the friendly. Many came simply 
to see him, to say they had shaken hands with him; 
numbers to try to find out what his policy would be if elected; 
others to wish him success. All day long they filed in and 
out leaving him some days no time for his correspondence, 
which every day grew larger. He seemed never to be in a 
hurry, never to lose patience, however high his table was 
piled with mail, however closely his room was crowded 
with visitors. He even found time to give frequent sittings 
to the artists sent from various parts of the country to paint 
his portrait. Among those who came in the summer after 
the nomination were Berry, of Boston ; Hicks, of New York; 
Conant, of St. Louis; Wright, of Mobile; Brown, and At- 
wood, of Philadelphia; Jones, of Cincinnati. Mr. Lincoln 
took the kindliest interest in these men, and later when Presi- 
dent did more than one of them a friendly turn; thus in 


March, 1865 he wrote to Seward in regard to Jones and 
Piatt, that he had " some wish " that they might have " some 
of those moderate sized consulates which facilitate artists a 
little in their profession." They in their turn never forgot 
him. Sitting over their easels by the hour in the corner of 
his office assigned them they got many glimpses into the 
man's great heart, and nowhere do we get pleasanter pic- 
tures of Mr. Lincoln in this period than from their journals. 
To those who observed Mr. Lincoln closely as he received 
his visitors one thing was apparent: he always remained 
master of the interview. While his visitors told him a great 
deal, they learned nothing from him which he did not wish to 
give. The following observations, published in the Illinois 
" State Journal " in November, i860, illustrate very well 
what happened almost every day in his office : 

" While talking to two or three gentlemen and standing 
up, a very hard looking customer rolled in and tumbled into 
the only vacant chair and the one lately occupied by Mr. Lin- 
coln. Mr. Lincoln's keen eye took in the fact, but gave no 
evidence of the notice. Turning around at last he spoke to 
the odd specimen, holding out his hand at such a distance 
that our friend had to vacate the chair if he accepted the 
proffered shake. Mr. Lincoln quietly resumed his chair. It 
was a small matter, yet one giving proof more positively than 
a larger event of that peculiar way the man has of mingling 
with a mixed crowd. 

" He converses fluently on all subjects, illustrates every- 
thing by a merry anecdote, of which article he has an abun- 
dant supply. I said on all subjects. He does not talk poli- 
tics. He passes from that gracefully the moment it is intro- 
duced. Hundreds seek him every week to get his opinion 
on this or that subject. Lie has a jolly way of disposing of 
that matter by saying, ' Ah ! you haven't read my speeches. 
Let me make you a present of my speeches.' And the earnest 
inquirer finds himself the happy possessor of some old docu- 


From an ambrotype taken in Springfield, Illinois, on August 13, 1860, and 
bought by Mr. William H. Lambert from Mr. W. P. Brown of Philadelphia. 
Mr. Brown writes of the portrait : "This picture, along with another one of the 
same kind, was presented by President Lincoln to my father, J. Henry Brown, 
deceased (miniature artist) , after he had finished painting Lincoln's picture on 
ivory, at Springfield, Illinois. The commission was given my father by Judge 
Read (John M. Read of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania), immediately 
after Lincoln's nomination for the presidency. One of the ambrotypes I sold 
to the Historical Society of Boston, Massachusetts, and it is now in their pos- 
session." The miniature referred to is now owned by Mr. Robert T. Lincoln. 
It was engraved by Samuel Sartain, and circulated widely before the inaugura- 
tion. After Mr. Lincoln grew a beard, Sartain put a beard on his plate, and 
the engraving continued to sell extensively. 


Among his daily visitors there were usually men of emi- 
nence from North and South. He received them all with per* 
feet simplicity and always even on his busiest days, found a 
moment to turn away from them to greet old friends who 
had known him when he kept grocery in New Salem or acted 
as deputy-surveyor of Sangamon County. One day as he 
talked to a company of distinguished strangers an old lady 
in a big sun-bonnet, heavy boots and short skirts walked into 
the office. She carried a package wrapped in brown paper 
and tied with a white string. As soon as Mr. Lincoln saw 
her he left the group, went to meet her and, shaking her hand 
cordially, inquired for her " folks." After a moment the 
old lady opened her package and taking out a pair of coarse 
wool socks she handed them to him. " I wanted to give you 
something Mr. Linkin," she said, " to take to Washington, 
and that's all I hed. I spun that yarn and knit them socks 
myself." Thanking her warmly, irfr. Lincoln took the socks 
and holding them up by the toes, one in each hand, he turned 
to the astonished celebrities and said in a voice full of kindly 
amusement, " The lady got my latitude and longitude about 
right, didn't she, gentlemen ? " 

The old lady was not the only one, however, who gave Mr. 
Lincoln " something to carry to Washington." From the 
time of his nomination gifts poured in on him. Many of 
these came in the form of wearing apparel. Mr. George Lin- 
coln, of Brooklyn, who in January carried a handsome silk 
hat to the President-elect, the gift of a New York hatter, says 
that in receiving the hat, Mr. Lincoln laughed heartily over 
the gifts of clothing and remarked to Mrs. Lincoln : 

" Well, wife, if nothing else comes out of this scrape, we 
are going to have some new clothes, are we not ? " 

To those who observed Mr. Lincoln superficially in this 
period, it might have seemed that he was doing nothing of 
any value to himself or to his party. Certainly he was taking 


no active part In the campaign- He was making no speeches 
— writing no letters — giving no interviews. This policy of 
silence he had adopted at the outset. The very night of his 
nomination his townspeople in serenading him had called for 
a speech. Standing in the doorway of his house he said to 
them that he did not suppose the honor of such a visit was 
intended particularly for himself as a private citizen, but 
rather as the representative of a great party; that as to his 
position on the political questions of the day he could only 
refer them to his previous speeches, and he added : — " Fel- 
low citizens and friends : The time comes upon every pub- 
lic man, when it is best for him to keep his lips closed. That 
time has come upon me." When in August the monster 
mass meeting was held in Springfield every effort was made 
to persuade Mr. Lincoln to speak. All he would consent to 
do was to appear and in a few words excuse himself. Up to 
the time he left for Washington to be inaugurated, he kept 
his resolve. 

Nor would he write letters explaining his position, or de- 
fending himself. So many letters were received asking his 
political opinion that he found it necessary soon after his 
nomination to prepare the following form of reply to be 
sent out by his secretary : 

" Dear Sir : Your letter to Mr. Lincoln of , and by 

which you seek to obtain his opinions on certain political 
points, has been received by him. He has received others 
of a similar character, but he also has a greater number of 
the exactly opposite character. The latter class beseech him 
to write nothing whatever upon any point of political doc- 
trine. They say his positions were well known when he was 
nominated, and that he must not now embarrass the canvass 
by undertaking to shift or modify them. He regrets that he 
cannot oblige all, but you perceive it is impossible for him to 
do so. Yours, etc., 



To one gentleman who askea him to write something dis- 
claiming all intention to interfere with slaves or slavery in 
the States, he replied, " I have already done this many many 
times; and it is in print and open to all who will read. 
Those who will not read or heed what I have already pub- 
licly said would not read or heed a repetition of it. If they 
hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be per- 
suaded though one rose from the dead." 

And to another correspondent who suggested that he set 
forth his conservative views, he wrote: — 

***" I will not forbear from doing so merely on punctilio 
and pluck. If I do finally abstain, it will be because of ap- 
prehension that it would do harm. For the good men of the 
South — and I regard the majority of them as such — I have 
no objection to repeat seventy and seven times. But I have 
bad men to deal with, both North and South ; men who are 
eager for something new upon which to base new misrepre- 
sentations; men who would like to frighten me, or at least 
to fix upon me the character of timidity and cowardice. They 
would seize upon almost any letter I could write as being an 
* awful coming down.' I intend keeping my eye upon these 
gentlemen, and to not unnecessarily put any weapons in thei* 

Nor would he defend himself against the " campaign sto- 
ries " which appeared in numbers. One of which his enemies 
made much was that he had received two hundred dollars for 
the Cooper Union speech in February, i860. They claimed 
that as it was a political speech it was contrary to political 
etiquette to accept pay. Lincoln explained the affair in a let- 
ter to a gentleman who had been disturbed by it and added : — 

" I have made this explanation to you as a friend, but I 
wish no explanation made to our enemies. What they want 
is a squabble and a fuss, and that they can have if we ex- 
plain ; and they cannot have it if we don't/' 


Another foolish tale which caused Lincoln's partisans un- 
rest was that when he was a member of Congress he had 
charged several pairs of boots to his stationery account and 
that they had been paid for out of public funds. One of Lin- 
coln's friends took the trouble to examine the stationery 
account for the Thirtieth Congress and to publish a certified 
denial of the story. 

Lincoln's silence and inactivity were merely external. As 
a matter of fact no one was busier than he. No one was fol- 
lowing more intently and thoughtfully the gradual develop- 
ment of the situation and the daily fluctuation of opinion. 
By correspondence, from the press, through his visitors many 
of whom came to Springfield at his request, he kept himself 
informed of how the campaign was going from Maine to 
California. Whenever he feared a break in the ranks he put 
in a word of warning or of advice. He warned Thurlow 
Weed that Douglas was " managing the Bell element with 
great adroitness." He cautioned Hannibal Hamlin against 
a break the latter feared in Maine, " Such a result as you 
seem to predict in Maine " — he wrote, " would, I fear, 
put us on the down-hill track, lose us the State elections in 
Pennsylvania and Indiana, and probably ruin us on the main 
turn in November.' ' While he gave the strictest attention 
to the progress of the elections all over the country, he man- 
aged to keep above local issues and to hold himself aloof 
from the personal contests and rivalries within the party. 

In fact Lincoln kept in perfect touch with the progress of 
his party from May to November and was able to say at any 
time with accuracy just what his chances were in each State. 
He seems at no time to have had any serious fear that he 
would be defeated. 

There was a tragic side to this very certainty of election 
which Lincoln felt deeply. In the Convention which had 
nominated him, nine States of the Union had not been rep- 


resented. If he should be elected these States would have 
had no voice in his choice. He knew that he was pledged 
to a platform whose principles these States stigmatized as 
" deception and fraud/' and that if elected he must deny 
what they claimed as rights. He knew that in at least one 
State, Alabama, the legislature two months before his nomi- 
nation had pledged itself by an almost unanimous vote in case 
of his election to call a convention to consider what should 
be done for " the protection of their rights, interests and 
honor." He knew that numbers of influential Southern men 
were repeating daily with Wm. L. Yancey, " I want the 
cotton states precipitated in a revolution," or declaring with 
Mr. Crawford of Georgia, " We will never submit to the in- 
auguration of a Black Republican President." 

From May to November he watched anxiously for every 
sign that the South was preparing to make good the threats 
with which its orators were inflaming their audiences, which 
a hostile press reiterated day by day, which teemed in his 
mail, and which brought scores of timorous men to Spring- 
field to advise and warn him. How serious was it all ? He 
did his utmost to discover; even writing in October to Major 
David Hunter to find out how much truth there was in the 
report of disaffection in a Western fort : " I have a letter 
from a writer unknown to me," he said, " saying the offi- 
cers of the army at Fort Kearney have determined, in case of 
Republican success, at the approaching presidential election, 
to take themselves, and the arms at that point, South, for 
the purpose of resistance to the government. While I think 
there are many chances to one that this is a humbug, it oc- 
curs to me that any real movement of this sort in the army 
would leak out and become known to you. In such case, if 
it would not be unprofessional, or dishonorable (of which 
you are to be judge), I shall be much obliged if you will ap- 
prise me of it." 


In spite of all that Lincoln knew of the temper of the 
South, in spite of his close study of events there through the 
summer of i860, he did not believe secession probable. " The 
people of the South have too much good sense and good tem- 
per to attempt the ruin of the government rather than see it 
administered as it was administered by the men who made 
it. At least so I hope and believe," he wrote a correspondent 
in August. And in September he said to a visitor, " There 
are no real disunionists in the country." 

There were reasons for this confidence. In every State 
of the South there was a Union party working to meet the 
crisis which Lincoln's election was sure to produce; many of 
the members sent him cheering letters. In acknowledging 
such a letter in August, Lincoln wrote : "It contains one 
of the many assurances I receive from the South, that in no 
probable event will there be any very formidable effort to 
break up the Union." 

Then, too, Lincoln had heard this threat of secession for 
so long that he had grown slightly indifferent to it. He re- 
membered that in the Fremont campaign it had been em- 
ployed with even more violence than now. Again in 1858 
the clamor of disunion had risen. He believed that now 
much of the noise about disunion was merely political, raised 
by the friends of Breckenridge, Douglas, or Bell, to drive vot- 
ers from him. The leading men of the party sustained Lin- 
coln in this belief. Seward and Schurz both confidently as- 
sured Republicans in their speeches that they might vote for 
Lincoln without fear, and Bryant, in the " Evening Post," 
laughed at the " conservative distresses " of those who sup- 
posed that Lincoln's election would cause secession and war ; 
reminding them that when Jefferson was a candidate it was 
said his election would " let loose the flood-gates of French 
Jacobinism " and that Henry Clay had declared that " noth- 
ing short of universal commercial ruin " would follow Jack- 


From photograph by A. J. Whipple of Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Lincoln and one of 
his sons stand inside the fence. The Lincoln residence in Springfield was purchased by Mr. 
Lincoln from the Rev. Charles Dresser in 1844. It was built by Mr. Dresser in 1839. Origin- 
ally it was a story and a half in height ; it was painted white, with green window blinds and 
white chimneys. Though now near the centre, it stood at the time of its purchase by Lin- 
coln, on the very outskirts of the place. For many years after Mr. Lincoln moved away in 
1861, it was occupied by numerous and often indifferent tenants. It was vacant much of the 
time. In 1883 Captain O. H. Oldroyd, now of Washington, D. C, rented the house and threw 
open its doors to the public. He maintained it at his own expense until 1887, when the State 
of Illinois, by the gift of Robert Lincoln, became owner of the place, and appointed Captaia 
Oldroyd its first custodian. It has since been open to the public. 


son's election. Lincoln was sustained not only by the as- 
surances of the Union party of the South and by the buoyant 
hopefulness of the Republicans of the North, he had a power- 
ful moral support in his own conviction that no matter what 
effort the South made to secede the North could and would 
prevent it. He was and had been for years perfectly clear 
on this subject. In the Fremont campaign he had said in 
reply to the threat of disunion, " No matter what our griev- 
ance^ — even though Kansas shall come in as a slave State; 
and no matter what theirs — even if we shall restore the com- 
promise — we will say to the Southern disunionists we won't 
go out of the Union and you shan't." 

It was then with the belief that he was going to be elected 
and that while his election would produce a serious uproar in 
the South, that no successful resistance would follow, that 
Lincoln approached election day. He had grown materially 
in the estimation of the country in the interval between May 
and November. Many of the leading men of his party who 
had deplored his nomination had come to believe him a wise, 
strong man. Those who sought personal interviews with 
him, and they were many, went home feeling like Thurlow 
Weed who, heart-sick over Seward's defeat and full of 
distrust, not to say contempt, of Lincoln's ability, visited 
him soon after the nomination at the earnest request of David 
Davis and Leonard Swett. " I found Mr. Lincoln," wrote 
Weed afterward, " sagacious and practical. He displayed 
throughout the conversation so much good sense, such intu- 
itive knowledge of human nature, and such familiarity with 
the virtues and infirmities of politicians, that I became im- 
pressed very favorably with his fitness for the duties which 
he was not unlikely to be called upon to discharge. This 
conversation lasted some five hours, and when the train ar- 
rived in which we were to depart, I rose all the better pre- 
pared to ' go to work with a will ' in favor of Mr. Lincoln's. 


election, as the interview had inspired me with confidence in 
his capacity and integrity. , ' . . . 

In the very South where a fury of prejudice had burst 
and where, as was to be expected, Lincoln was popularly 
regarded as an odious and tyrannical monster, much as later 
the North regarded Jefferson Davis, there were signs that he 
was at least considered honest in his views. 

" It may seem strange to you," wrote a Kentuckian, who 
was quoted by the New York " Evening Post," August 17, 
i860, " but it is nevertheless true that the South looks for 
the election of Lincoln by the people and would prefer him to 
Douglas. Our most ultra Southern men seem to respect 
him and to have confidence in his honesty, fairness and con- 
servatism. They concede that he stands on a moderate plat- 
form, that his antecedents are excellent, and that he is not 
likely to invade the rights of any one ; but they can't go for 
him because he holds opinions relative to the rights of 
slavery in the Territories directly opposite to the Southern 
view, still he is an open and candid opponent, and therefore 
commands Southern respect." 

" Some of the most interesting interviews which Mr. Lin- 
coln has had," wrote some one to the Baltimore " Patriot," 
"have been with extreme Southern gentlemen, who came 
full of prejudice against him, and who left satisfied with his 
loyalty to all the constitutional rights of the South. I could 
tell you of some most interesting cases, but it is enough to 
know that the general sentiment of all Southern men who 
have conversed with him is the same as that publicly ex- 
pressed by Mr. Goggin, of Virginia; Mr. Perry, of South 
Carolina ; Mr. McRae, of North Carolina, and many others, 
who have not hesitated to avow their intention of accepting 
Mr. Lincoln's election and holding him to the constitutional 
discharge of the presidential office. . . ." 

The most significant element in the estimate of Lincoln 
which the country formed between May and November was 
the respect and affection which was awakened among the 


common people. There sprang up all ovef the country 
among plain people a feeling for him not unlike that which 
had long existed in Illinois. The general distribution made 
of his speeches had something to do with this. There was 
published in i860 in Columbus, Ohio, an edition of the Lin- 
coln and Douglas debates of 1858, which was used freely 
as a campaign document. Lincoln himself gave away scores 
of these books to his friends and to persons who came to him 
begging for an expression of his views. To-day copies bear- 
ing his autograph are to be seen, treasured volumes in the 
libraries of many public men. The Cooper Union speech 
was published by the Young Men's Republican Club of New 
York and circulated widely. To the hard-working farmer, 
mechanic, store-keeper, who thought slowly but surely, and 
whose sole political ambition was to cast an honest vote, 
these speeches were like a personal face-to-face talk. The 
argument was so clear, the illustration so persuasive, the 
statement so colloquial and natural, that they could not get 
away from them. " Lincoln's right," was the general verdict 
among masses of people who, hesitating between Republican- 
ism and Popular Sovereignty, read the speeches as a help to 
a decision. 

While Lincoln's speeches awakened respect for and con- 
fidence in his ability, the story of his life stirred something 
deeper in men. Here was a man who had become a leader 
of the nation by the labor of his hands, the honesty of his 
intellect, the uprightness of his heart. Plain people were 
touched by the hardships of this life so like their own, in- 
spired by the thought that a man who had struggled as they 
had done, who had remained poor, who had lived simply, 
could be eligible to the highest place in the nation. They 
had believed that it could be done. Here was a proof of it. 
They told the story to their boys. This, they said, is what 
American institutions make possible; not glitter or wealth, 


trickery or demagogy is necessary, only honesty, hard 
thinking, a fixed purpose. Affection and sympathy for Lin- 
coln grew with respect. It was the beginning of that pecu- 
liar sympathetic relation between him and the common peo- 
ple which was to become one of the controlling influences 
in the great drama of the Civil War. 

Election day in i860 fell on the 6th. Springfield, although 
a town of strong Democratic sympathy, realized the import- 
ance of the occasion, and by daylight was booming away with 
cannon; before noon numbers of bands which came, the citi- 
zens hardly knew from where, were playing on the corners 
of every street. Mr. Lincoln, as was his custom, came down 
to his room at the State House by eight o'clock, where he 
went over his big mail as coolly as if it were not election day 
and he a candidate for the presidency of the United States. 
He had not been there long before his friends began to flock 
in in such numbers that it was proposed that the doors be 
closed and he be allowed to remain by himself, but he said 
he had never done such a thing in his life as to close the 
door on his friends and that he did not intend to begin now, 
and so the day wore away in the entertainment of visitors. 

It had not been Mr. Lincoln's intention to vote, the ob- 
stacle which he found in the way being that his own name 
headed the Republican ticket and that he did not want to 
vote for himself. One of his friends suggested that his 
name might be cut off and he vote for the rest of the ticket 
He fell in with this suggestion, and late in the afternoon, 
when the crowd around the polls, which were just across 
the street from his office, had subsided somewhat, he went 
over to cast his ballot. He was recognized immediately and 
his friends were soon about him, cheering wildly and con- 
tending good-naturedly for an opportunity to shake his hand. 
Even the Democrats, with their hands full of documents 
which they were distributing, joined in this enthusiastic 


demonstration and cheered at the top of their voices for their 
beloved townsman. 

No returns were expected before seven o'clock, and it was 
a little later than that when Mr. Lincoln returned from his 
supper to the State House. The first despatches that came 
were from different parts of Illinois, the very first being from 
Decatur, where a Republican gain was announced. Soon 
after, Alton, which was expected to go for Douglas, sent in 
a majority of twelve for Lincoln. There was a tremendous 
sensation in the company, and Mr. Lincoln asked that the 
despatch be sent out to the "boys," meaning the crowd which 
had gathered in and about the State House. After an hour 
or more news began to come from Missouri. " Now," said 
Mr. Lincoln, " they should get a few licks back at us." But 
to everybody's surprise, there was more good news from Mis- 
souri than had been expected. Towards midnight news be- 
gan to come from Pennsylvania : " Allegheny County, 10,- 
000 majority for Lincoln;" " Philadelphia, 15,000 plurality, 
5,000 majority over all ;" then a telegram from Simon Cam- 
eron, " Pennsylvania 70,000 for you. New York safe. 
Glory enough." This was the first news from New York, 
and since ten o'clock the company had been waiting impa- 
tiently for it. A fusion ticket, it was feared, might go 
through there, and if it did the disaster to the Republicans 
would be serious. 

While waiting anxiously for something definite from New 
York, a delegation of Springfield ladies came in to invite 
Mr. Lincoln and his friends to a hall near by, where they 
had prepared refreshments for all the Republican politicians 
of the town. The party had not been there long before there 
came a telegram announcing that New York city had gone 
Republican. Such a cheering was probably never heard in 
Springfield before. The hall full of people, beside them- 
selves with joy, began a romping promenade around the 


tables, singing at the top of their voices the popular cam- 
paign song, " Oh ain't you glad you joined the Republi- 
cans ?" Here at intervals further telegrams came from New 
York, all announcing large majorities. The scene became 
one of the wildest excitement, and Mr. Lincoln and his 
friends soon withdrew to a little telegraph office on the 
square, where they could receive reports more quietly. Up 
to this time the only anxiety Mr. Lincoln had shown about 
the election was in the returns from his State and town. 
He didn't " feel quite easy," as he said, " about Spring- 
field." Towards morning, however, the announcement 
came that he had a majority in his own precinct. Then it 
was that he showed the first emotion, a jubilant chuckle, and 
soon after he remarked cheerfully to his friends, that he 
" guess'd he'd go home now," which he did. But Spring- 
field was not content to go home. Cannon banged until day- 
light, and on every street corner and in every alley could be 
heard groups of men shouting at the top of their voices, 
" Oh, ain't you glad you joined the Republicans? " 

Twenty-four hours later and the full result of that Tues- 
day's work was known. Out of 303 electoral votes, Lincoln 
had received 180. Of the popular vote he had received 
1,866,452 — nearly a half million over Douglas, a million 
over Breckenridge, a million and a quarter over Bell. It was 
a victory, but there were facts about the victory which 
startled the thoughtful. If Lincoln had more votes than any 
one opposing candidate, they together had nearly 1,000,000 
over him. Fifteen States of the Union gave him no electoral 
votes, and in ten States he had not received a single popular 



Although the election of November 6 made Lincoln the 
President-elect of the United States, for four months, he 
could exercise no direct influence on the affairs of the coun- 
try. If the South tried to make good her threat to secede 
in case he was elected, he could do nothing to restrain her. 
The South did try, and at once. With the very election re- 
turns the telegraph brought Lincoln news of disruption. 
Day by day this news continued, and always more alarming. 
On November 10, the United States senators from South 
Carolina resigned. Six weeks later, that State passed an or- 
dinance of secession and began to organize an independent 
government. By the end of December, the only remnant of 
United States authority in South Carolina was the small 
garrison commanded by Major Anderson which occupied 
Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor. The remaining forts and 
batteries of that harbor, the lighthouse tender, the arsenal, 
the post-office, the custom-house, in short, everything in the 
State over which the Stars and Stripes had floated, was un- 
der the Palmetto Flag. 

In his quiet office in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln read, in 
January, reports of the proceedings of conventions in Mis- 
sissippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, by all of 
which States, in that month, ordinances of secession were 
adopted. In February, he saw representatives of these same 
States unite in a general convention at Montgomery, Ala- 
bama, and the newspapers told him how promptly and in* 



telligently they went to work to found a new nation, the 
Southern Confederacy, to provide it with a constitution, and 
to give it officers. 

Mr. Lincoln observed that each State, as she went out of 
the Union, prepared to defend her course if necessary. On 
November 18, Georgia appropriated $1,000,000 to arm 
the State, and in January she seized Forts Pulaski and Jack- 
son and the United States arsenal. Louisiana appropriated 
all the federal property in her borders, even to the mint and 
custom-house and the money they contained. Georgia, 
Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi were not behind in their 
seizures, and when the new government was formed at Mont- 
gomery, it promptly took up the question of defending its 

Mr. Lincoln was not only obliged to sit inactive and watch 
this steady dissolution of the Union, but he was obliged to 
see what was still harder — that the administration which he 
was to succeed was doing nothing to check the destruction- 
ists. Indeed, all through this period proof accumulated that 
members of Mr. Buchanan's cabinet had been systematically 
working for many months to disarm the North and equip 
the South. The quantity of arms sent quietly from North- 
ern arsenals was so great that the citizens of the towns from 
which they went became alarmed. Thus the Springfield 
" Republican " of January 2, 1861, noted that the citizens of 
that town were growing excited over " the procession of 
government licenses which, during the last spring and sum- 
mer, and also quite recently, have been engaged in transport- 
ing from the United States Armory to the United States 
freight station, an immense quantity of boxes of muskets 
marked for Southern distribution." " We find," the paper 
continues, " that in i860 there were removed for safe-keep- 
ing in other arsenals 135,430 government arms. This has 
nothing to do with the distribution occasionally made for 


State militia.' ' And when, in December, the citizens of 
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, found that 123 cannon had been 
ordered South from the arsenal there, they made such ener- 
getic protests that President Buchanan was obliged to coun- 
termand the order of his Secretary of War. 

The rapid disintegration which followed the election of 
Mr. Lincoln rilled the North with dismay. There was a gen- 
eral demand for some compromise which would reassure 
the South and stop secession. It was the place of the Re- 
publicans, the conservatives argued, to make this compro- 
mise. A furious clamor broke over Mr. Lincoln's head. His 
election had caused the trouble; now what would he do to 
quell it? How much of the Republican platform would he 
give up? Among the newspapers which pleaded with the 
President-elect to do something to reassure the South the 
most able was the New York " Herald." Lincoln was a 
" sectional President," declared the " Herald," who, out of 
4,700,000 votes cast, had received but 1,850,000, and whom 
the South had had no part in electing. 

If Mr. Lincoln intends to carry on the government ac- 
cording to the principles laid down in the Chicago platform 
and the documents issued under the authority of the Re- 
publican " national " committee, the inevitable tendency of 
his administration will be to encourage servile insurrections 
and to make the Southern States still more uncomfortable 
within the Union than they could by any possibility be with- 
out it. . . . If the new President recognizes the fact 
that he is not bound by the Chicago platform — the people 
having repudiated it ; . . . if he comes out and tells the 
people that he will govern the country according to the views 
of the majority, and not to serve the purposes of the mi- 
nority, all may yet be well. . . . Mr. Lincoln must 
throw his pledges to the winds, let his party go to perdition 
in its own way, and devote himself to the service of the whole 
country. It is Mr. Lincoln's bounden duty to come out now 
and declare his views. 


It was not only the opposition press which urged Lincoln 
to offer some kind of compromise; many frightened Repub- 
lican newspapers added their influence. The appeals of thou- 
sands of letters and of scores of visitors were added to the 
arguments of the press. Lincoln, however, refused to ex- 
press his views anew. " I know the justness of my inten- 
tions/' he told an interviewer in November, " and the utter 
groundlessness of the pretended fears of the men who are 
filling the country with their clamor. If I go into the presi- 
dency, they will find me as I am on record, nothing less, 
nothing more. My declarations have been made to the world 
without reservation. They have been often repeated, and 
now self-respect demands of me and of the party which has 
elected me that, when threatened, I should be silent. ,, 

Business was brought almost to a standstill throughout 
the North by the prospect of disunion. " It is an awful time 
for merchants," wrote a correspondent to Charles Sumner, 
" worse than in 1857. And if there is not some speedy relief, 
more than half of the best concerns in the country will be 
ruined." Numbers of prominent men urged the President- 
elect to say something conciliatory for the sake of trade. His 
replies published in Nicolay and Hay's " Abraham Lincoln " 
are marked by spirit and decision. To one man of wealth 
he wrote on November 10 : 

I am not insensible to any commercial or financial depres- 
sion that may exist, but nothing is to be gained by fawning 
around the " respectable scoundrels " who got it up. Let 
them go to work and repair the mischief of their own mak- 
ing, and then perhaps they will be less greedy to do the like 

And to Henry J. Raymond, the editor of the New York 
" Times/' he gave, on November 28, in answer to a request 
for his views, what he called a " demonstration " of the cor- 


rectness of his judgment that he should say nothing for the 
public : 

On the 20th instant, Senator Trumbull made a short 
speech, which I suppose you have both seen and approved. 
Has a single newspaper, heretofore against us, urged that 
speech upon its readers with a purpose to quiet public 
anxiety ? Not one, so far as I know. On the contrary, the 
Boston " Courier " and its class hold me responsible for that 
speech, and endeavor to inflame the North with the belief 
that it foreshadows an abandonment of Republican ground 
by the incoming administration while the Washington " Con- 
stitution " and its class hold the same speech up to the South 
as an open declaration of war against them. This is just as 
I expected, and just what would happen with any declaration 
I could make. These political fiends are not half sick enough 
yet. Party malice, and not public good, possesses them en- 
tirely. " They seek a sign, and no sign shall be given them." 
At least such is my present feeling and purpose. 

While refusing positively to express himself for the gen- 
eral public at this time, Lincoln wrote and talked freely to 
the Republican leaders, almost all of whom were busy with 
one or another scheme for quieting the distracted nation. 
On the opening of Congress, a committee of thirty-three had 
been appointed by the House to consider " the present peril- 
ous condition of the country," and the Republican members 
wished to know what Mr. Lincoln would yield. The Hon. 
William Kellogg, the Illinois member of the committee, 
wrote to him. His reply, dated December n, is unmis- 
takable : 

Entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard to 
the extension of slavery. The instant you do, they have us 
under again : all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must 
be done over. Douglas is sure to be again trying to bring 
in his " popular sovereignty." Have none of it. The tug 
has to come, and better now than later. You know I think 


the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution ought to be en- 
forced — to put it in its mildest form, ought not to be re- 

While the committee of thirty-three was seeking grounds 
for a settlement in the House, a committee of thirteen was 
busy in the Senate in the same search. On the latter com- 
mittee was William H. Seward, and he too sent to Mr. Lin- 
coln for a suggestion. In reply, the President-elect sent Mr. 
Seward, by Thurlow Weed, a memorandum which was sup- 
posed to have been lost until a few months ago when it was 
discovered by Mr. Frederick Bancroft in course of his re- 
searches for a Life of Seward. Two points are covered in 
this memorandum. The first that the fugitive slave law 
should be enforced, the second that the Federal Union must 
be preserved. In a letter to the Hon. E. B. Washburne, writ- 
ten on December 13th, Lincoln again stated his views on 
slavery extension : 

Prevent, as far as possible, any of our friends from demor- 
alizing themselves and our cause by entertaining propositions 
for compromise of any sort on " slavery extension/' There 
is no possible compromise upon it but which puts us under 
again and leaves all our work to do over again. Whether 
it be a Missouri line or Eli Thayer's popular sovereignty, it 
is all the same. Let either be done, and immediately filibus- 
tering and extending slavery recommences. On that point 
hold firm, as with a chain of steel. 

These counsels were given while secession was still in its 
infancy. The alarming developments which followed did 
not cause Lincoln to waver. On January 11, he wrote to 
the Hon. J. T. Hale a letter published by Nicolay and Hay, 
in which he said : 

What is our present condition ? We have just carried an 
election on principles fairly stated to the people. Now we 
are told in advance the government shall be broken up unless 


we surrender to those we have beaten, before we take the 
offices. In this they are either attempting to phy upon us 
or they are in dead earnest. Either way, if we surrender, 
it is the end of us and of the government. They will repeat 
the experiment upon us ad libitum. A year will not pass till 
we shall have to take Cuba as a condition upon which they 
will stay in the Union. They now have the Constitution 
under which we have lived over seventy years, and acts of 
Congress of their own framing, with no prospect of their 
being changed ; and they can never have a more shallow pre- 
text for breaking up the government, or extorting a compro- 
mise, than now. There is, in my judgment, but one compro- 
mise which would really settle the slavery question, and that 
would be a prohibition against acquiring any more territory. 

It was not the North and the Republicans alone that ap- 
pealed to Mr. Lincoln ; the Unionists of the South urged him 
for an explanation which they might present to the people 
as proof that there was nothing to fear from his election. 
Lincoln had no faith that any expression of his would be 
heeded ; yet he did, confidentially, express himself frankly to 
many Southerners who came to him in Springfield, and 
there are two letters of his published by Nicolay and Hay 
which show how completely he grasped the essential differ- 
ence between the North and the South, and with what jus- 
tice and kindness he put the case to those who disagreed with 
him. The first of these letters was written to John A. Gil- 
mer, a member of Congress from North Carolina, who de- 
sired earnestly to preserve the Union, but not unless the 
opinions of the South were considered. Mr. Gilmer had 
written to Mr. Lincoln, asking his position on certain ques- 
tions. Lincoln replied: 

Carefully read pages 18, 19, 74, 75, 88, 89, and 267 of 
the volume of joint debates between Senator Douglas and 
myself, with the Republican platform adopted at Chicago, 
and all your questions will be substantially answered. I have 


ao thought of recommending the abolition of slavery in the 
District of Columbia, nor the slave-trade among the slave 
States, even on the conditions indicated; anc if I were to 
make such recommendation, it is quite clear Congress would 
not follow it. 

As to employing slaves in arsenals and dock-yards, it is a 
thing I never thought of in my life, to my recollection, till I 
saw your letter ; and I may say of it precisely as I have said 
of the two points above. 

As to the use of patronage in the slave States, where there 
are few or no Republicans, I do not expect to inquire for the 
politics of the appointee, or whether he does or not own 
slaves. I intend, in that matter, to accommodate the people 
in the several localities, if they themselves will allow me to 
accommodate them. In one word, I never have been, am 
not now, and probably never shall be in a mood of harassing 
the people either North or South. 

On the territorial question I am inflexible, as you see my 
position in the book. On that there is a difference between 
you and us; and it is the only substantial difference. You 
think slavery is right and ought to be extended; we think 
:t is wrong and ought to be restricted. For this neither has 
any just occasion to be angry with the other. 

As to the State laws mentioned in your sixth question, I 
really know very little of them. I never have read one. If 
any of them are in conflict with the fugitive-slave clause, or 
any other part of the Constitution, I certainly shall be glad 
of their repeal ; but I could hardly be justified, as a citizen of 
Illinois, or as President of the United States, to recommend 
the repeal of a statute of Vermont or South Carolina. 

A week later, Mr. Lincoln wrote to A. H. Stephens, of 
Georgia, in reply to a note in which Stephens had said : " The 
country is certainly in great peril, and no man ever had 
heavier or greater responsibilities resting upon him than you 
have in the present momentous crisis." 

I fully appreciate the present peril the country is in, and 
the weight of responsibility on me. Do the people of the 


South really entertain fears that a Republican administration 
would, directly or indirectly, interfere with the slaves, or 
with them about the slaves? If they do, I wish to assure 
you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that 
there is no cause for such fears. The South would be in no 
more danger in this respect than it was in the days of Wash- 
ington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. 
You think slavery is right and ought to be extended, while 
we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That, I 
suppose, is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial differ- 
ence between us. 

The uproar which raged about Mr. Lincoln soon became 
quite as loud over " coercion " as over " compromise." Each 
passing week made conciliation more difficult, saw new ele- 
ments of disunion realized. What was to be done with the 
seceding States ? What was to be done about the forts and 
arsenals, custom-houses and post-offices, they were seizing? 
If Mr. Lincoln would not compromise, was he going to let 
the States and the federal property go, or was he going to 
compel them to return with it ? Did he propose to coerce the 
South? Though the President-elect refused to give any 
expression of opinion on the subject to the country, it was 
not because he was not perfectly clear in his own mind. Se- 
cession he considered impossible. " My opinion is," he wrote 
Thurlow Weed on December 17, "that no State can in 
any way lawfully get out of the Union without the consent 
of the others; and that it is the duty of the President and 
other government functionaries to run the machine as it is." 

When Horace Greeley began a series of editorials in the 
" Tribune " contending that if seven or eight States sent 
agents to Washington saying, " We want to get out of the 
Union," he should feel constrained by his devotion to Human 
Liberty to say " Let them go," Lincoln said nothing publicly, 
though in Springfield it was believed that he considered the 
policy " dangerous and illogical," He certainly was only 


amused at Fernando Wood's scheme to take New York City 
out of the Union and make it a free city — another Hamburg. 
" I reckon," he said to a New Yorker in February, in dis- 
cussing the subject, " that it will be some time before the 
front door sets up house-keeping on its own account." 

As to the forts and other federal property seized by the 
outgoing States, he seems to have felt from the first that they 
were to be retaken. In this matter he sought guidance from 
Andrew Jackson. Less than a week after his election, a cor- 
respondent of the " Evening Post " found him engaged in 
reading the history of the milliners of 1832 and 1833 an d of 
the summary way in which " Old Hickory " dealt with them. 
In December, he wrote to his friend E. B. Washburne, who 
had just reported to him an interview with General Scott, 
the general in command of the army, on the dangers of the 
situation : 

Please present my respects to the General, and tell him, 
confidentially, that I shall be obliged to him to be as well 
prepared as he can to either hold or retake the forts, as the 
case may require, at and after the inauguration. 

And the very next day, he wrote to Major David Hunter : 

The most we can do now is to watch events, and be as 
well prepared as possible for any turn things may take. If 
the forts fall, my judgment is that they are to be retaken. 

From the foregoing letters it will be seen that Mr. Lincoln 
had stripped his opinions on the questions of the day of all 
verbiage and non-essentials and reduced them to the follow- 
ing simple propositions. 

(1) Slavery is wrong, and must not be extended. 

(2) Entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard 
to the extension of slavery. 

(3) No State can in any way lawfully get out of the 
Union, without the consent of the others. It is the duty of 


the President and other government functionaries to run the 
machine as it is. 

(4) If the forts fall, my judgment is that they are to be 

To these simple statements he stuck throughout this pe- 
riod of confusion and distress, refusing to allow them to be 
obscured by words and passion, and making them his guide 
in the work of preparation for his inauguration. 

Three things especially occupied him in this preparation : 
( 1 ) Making the acquaintance of the men with whom he was 
to be associated in the administration. (2) His cabinet. 
(3) His inaugural address. 

The first letter Lincoln wrote after his election was to 
Hannibal Hamlin, the Vice-President-elect, asking for an 
interview. The two gentlemen met at the Tremont House, 
Chicago, on November 23. Mr. Hamlin once gave to a 
friend, Mr. C. J. Prescott, of New York, an account of this 
meeting, which Mr. Prescott has written out for this work : 

Mr. Hamlin was for many years a member of the Board 
of Trustees of Waterville College now Colby University, 
Waterville, Maine. On one of the annual Commencement 
occasions, I found him one afternoon seated on the piazza 
of the Elmwood, for the moment alone and unoccupied. 
Taking a chair by his side, I said : " Mr. Hamlin, when did 
you first meet Mr. Lincoln ? " " Well," said he, " I very 
plainly recall the circumstances of our first meeting. It was 
in Chicago. Some time before the inauguration, I received 
a letter from Mr. Lincoln, asking me to see him before I 
went to Washington. So I went to Chicago, where I was to 
meet Mr. Lincoln. Sending my card to Mr. Lincoln's room, 
I received word to ' come right up.' I found the door open, 
and Mr. Lincoln approaching with extended hand. With a 
hearty welcome, he said, * I think I have never met you be- 
fore, Mr. Hamlin, but this is not the first time I have seen 
you. I have just been recalling the time when, in '48, I went 
to the Senate to hear you speak. Your subject was not new, 


but the ideas were sound. You were talking about slavery, 
and I now take occasion to thank you for so well expressing 
what were my own sentiments at that time/ 

" ' Well, Mr. President/ said I, ' this is certainly quite a 
remarkable coincidence. I myself have just been recalling 
the first time I ever saw you. It must have been about the 
same time to which you allude. I was passing through the 
House, and was attracted by some remarks on the subject 
of slavery from one of the new members. They told me it 
was Lincoln, of Illinois. I heard you through, and I very 
well remember how heartily I endorsed every point you 
made. And, Mr. President, I have no doubt we are still in 
perfect accord on the main question.' " 

The result of the Chicago interview was a cordial under- 
standing between the two men which lasted throughout their 
administration. This was to be expected, for they were not 
unlike in character and experience. The same kind of demo- 
cratic feeling inspired their relations with others. Both 
" marched with the boys." Both were eminently compan- 
ionable. Hamlin liked a good story as well as Lincoln, and 
told almost as many. He had, too, the same quaint way of 
putting things. Like Lincoln, Hamlin had been born poor, 
and had had a hand-to-hand struggle to get up in the world. 
He had worked on a farm, chopped logs, taught school, 
studied law at night; in short, turned his hand cheerfully 
and eagerly to anything that would help him to realize his 
ambitions. Like Lincoln, he had gone early into politics, 
and, like Lincoln again, he had revolted from his party in 
1856 to join the Republicans. 

A great many men were summoned to Springfield by Lin- 
coln, in order that he might learn their views more perfectly. 
Among those who came, either by his direct or indi- 
rect invitation, were Edward Bates, Thurlow Weed, 
David Wilmot, A. K. McClure, George W. Julian, 
E. D. Baker, William Sweeney, Horace Greeley, and Carl 


Schurz. With many of them Lincoln did not hesitate to 
talk over his cabinet. Thurlow Weed says that when he 
visited the President-elect in December, the latter introduced 
the subject of the cabinet, saying that " he supposed I had 
had some experience in cabinet-making, that he had a job 
on hand, and as he had never learned that trade, he was dis- 
posed to avail himself of the suggestions of friends." " The 
making of a cabinet," he continued, " now that he had it to 
do, was by no means as easy as he had supposed ; that he had, 
even before the result of the election was known, assuming 
the probability of success, fixed upon the two leading mem- 
bers of his cabinet; but that, in looking about for suitable 
men to fill the other departments, he had been much embar- 
rassed, partly from his want of acquaintance with the promi- 
nent men of the day, and partly, he believed, because that, 
while the population had greatly increased, really great men 
were scarcer than they used to be." 

The two members of his cabinet on whom Lincoln fixed 
so early were Seward and Chase. He wrote Seward on De- 
cember 8, asking permission to nominate him as Secretary 
of State, and saying : 

It has been my purpose, from the day of the nomination 
at Chicago, to assign you, by your leave, this place in the 
administration. I have delayed so long to communicate that 
purpose in deference to what appeared to me a proper cau- 
tion in the case. Nothing has been developed to change my 
view in the premises ; and I now offer you the place, in the 
hope that you will accept it, and with the belief that your po- 
sition in the public eye, your integrity, ability, learning, and 
great experience, all combine to render it an appointment 
pre-eminently fit to be made. 

Seward took three weeks to consider, and finally, on 
December 28, wrote that, " after due reflection and much 
self-distrust," he had concluded it was his duty to accept. 


Lincoln did not approach Chase on the subject of the cabi- 
net until some three weeks after he had written Seward. 
Then, on December 31, he wrote him this brief note : 

In these troublous times I would much like a conference 
with you. Please visit me here at once. 

Chase reached Springfield on the evening of January 3, 
and Lincoln, in his informal way, went to the hotel to see 
him. Chase afterward described the interview in a letter to 
a friend : 

He said he had felt bound to offer the position of Secretary 
of State to Mr. Seward as the generally recognized leader 
of the Republican party, intending, if he declined it, to offer 
it to me. He did not wish that Mr. Seward should decline 
it, and was glad that he had accepted, and now desired to 
have me take the place of Secretary of the Treasury. 

Chase did not promise to accept, only to think it over, and 
so the situation stood until the appointment was actually 
made in March. 

It was Pennsylvania and the South that gave Lincoln the 
greatest trouble. " Pennsylvania,"he told Weed, " any more 
than New York or Ohio, cannot be overlooked. Her strong 
Republican vote, not less than her numerical importance, en- 
titles her to a representative in the cabinet." After a careful 
" balancing of matters," as he called it, he concluded to ap- 
point Simon Cameron as the Pennsylvania cabinet member, 
and on December 31 he gave Cameron, who had been for 
three days in Springfield discussing the situation, the fol- 
lowing letter : 

Hon. Simon Cameron. 

My dear Sir: I think fit to notify you now that, by your 
permission, I shall at the proper time nominate you to the 
United States Senate for confirmation as Secretary of the 


Treasury, or as Secretary of War — which of the two I have 
not yet definitely decided. Please answer at your earliest 
convenience. Your obedient servant, 

A. Lincoln. 

Cameron had scarcely reached home with his letter before 
those opposed to him in Pennsylvania had frightened Lin- 
coln into believing that the lack of trust in Cameron's politi- 
cal honesty which existed throughout the country would 
destroy faith in the new cabinet. Lincoln immediately wrote 
Cameron that things had developed which made it impossible 
to take him into the cabinet. Later he assured Cameron that 
the withdrawal did not spring from any change of view as to 
the ability or faithfulness with which he would discharge the 
duties of the place, and he promised not to make a cabinet 
appointment for Pennsylvania without consulting him and 
giving all the weight he consistently could to his views and 
wishes. There the matter remained until March. 

Among conciliatory Republicans there was a strong de- 
sire that Lincoln find a member of his cabinet in the South. 
It was believed that such an act would be taken as proof that 
the new President intended to consider the claims of the 
South. Lincoln did not believe the idea practical, and he 
showed the difficulties in the way very shrewdly by causing 
to be inserted, on December 12, in the " Illinois Journal," a 
paper popularly called his " organ," the following short edi- 
torial : 

We hear such frequent allusions to a supposed purpose on 
the part of Mr. Lincoln to call into his cabinet two or three 
Southern gentlemen from the parties opposed to him politi- 
cally, that we are prompted to ask a few questions. 

First. Is it known that any such gentlemen of character 
would accept a place in the cabinet? 

Second. If yea, on what terms does he surrender to Mr. 
Lincoln or Mr Lincoln to him, on the political differences 


between them; or do they enter upon the administration in 
open opposition to each other ? 

The demand continued, however. Weed told Lincoln in 
December that, in his opinion, at least two of the members 
of the cabinet should be from the South. Lincoln was doubt- 
ful if they could be trusted. " There are men in Maryland, 
Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, ,, replied Weed, 
" for whose loyalty under any circumstances, and in any 
event, I would vouch." 

" Well," said Lincoln, " let me have the names of your 
white blackbirds." Weed gave him four names. Mr. 
Seward, a little later, suggested several, and Mr. Greeley 
likewise sent him a list of five Southerners whom he declared 
it would be safe to take into the official family. Of all those 
named, Lincoln preferred John A. Gilmer, of North Caro- 
lina, and he invited him to come to Springfield for an inter- 
view. As late as January 12, he wrote to Seward : 

I still hope Mr. Gilmer will, on a fair understanding with 
us, consent to take a place in the cabinet. ... I fear, if we 
could get, we could not safely take more than one such man — 
that is, not more than one who opposed us in the election, the 
danger being to lose the confidence of our own friends. 

Mr. Gilmer did not accept Mr. Lincoln's invitation to 
Springfield, however, and nothing ever came of the overture 
made him. The nearest approach Lincoln made to selecting 
a cabinet member from the South was in the appointment of 
Edward Bates, of Missouri. He was one of the men whom 
Lincoln had decided upon as soon as he knew of his election, 
and he was the first after Seward to be notified. A repre- 
sentative from Indiana was desirable, and Caleb Smith was 
put on the slate provisionally. It was necessary, too, that 
New England have a place in the cabinet. Mr. Lincoln had 
three candidates, of all of whom he thought well — Tuck, of 


New Hampshire ; Banks, of Massachusetts ; Gideon Welles, 
of Connecticut; but he made no decision until after he 
reached Washington. 

About the middle of January, 1861, Lincoln began to 
prepare his inaugural address. A more desperate situation 
than existed at that moment it would be hard to imagine. 
Thus far every peace measure had failed, and the endless 
discussions of press and senate chamber were daily increasing 
the anger and the bewilderment of the people. Four States 
had left the Union, and the South was rapidly accepting the 
idea of separate nationality. The North was desperate and 
helpless. All the bitterness and confusion centred about 
Lincoln. A hundred things told him how serious was the 
situation; the averted faces of his townsmen of Southern 
sympathies, the warnings of good men who sought him 
from North, and South, letters threatening him with death, 
sketches of gibbets and stilettos in every mail. 

But in spite of all these distracting circumstances, when he 
thought it time to write the inaugural address, he calmly 
locked himself up in an upper room over a store, across the 
street from the State House, where he had his office, and 
there, with no books but a copy of the " Constitution," Henry 
Clay's " Speech of 1850," Jackson's " Proclamation against 
Nullification," and Webster's " Reply to Hayne," he pre- 
pared the document. Wishing to have several copies of it, 
he went to the general manager of the Illinois " State 
Journal," Major Wm. H. Bailhache, now of San Diego, 
California, to arrange for them. Major Bailhache has 
prepared for this work a statement of the incident : 

" In relation to the printing of the draft of his first inaugu- 
ral address, my recollection is very clear that his manner was 
as free from formality and affectation as it would have been 
had he been ordering the printing of a legal document. He 
merely asked me, one day early in January, 1861, if I could 


print his address in a certain style without its contents beconv 
ing known, and upon being assured that I could do so, he 
remarked that he would give me the manuscript in a few 
days. Not long after this, he placed the momentous paper in 
my hands. I had the work done at once, under my personal 
supervision, in a private room in the " Journal " building, 
by a trusted employe, sworn to secrecy. When it was 
finished, I returned the manuscript to Mr. Lincoln, together 
with the twenty printed copies ordered, one of which he 
himself gave to me, and it has been retained in my possession 
ever since. I may remark in passing, that the manuscript 
was all in his own handwriting and was almost entirely free 
from alterations or interlineations. He did not ask to see a 
proof, reposing entire confidence in my careful supervision. 
Neither the original draft nor the printed sheets were ever 
out of my immediate custody for an instant during the time 
occupied in the printing, and I doubt whether any of the 
score or more of " typos " employed in the " Journal " office 
had even the slightest suspicion that this important state 
paper was then being put in type under the same roof with 
them. Be this as it may, the secret was well kept, although 
the newspapers employed every conceivable means to obtain 
a hint of its tenor, and the whole country was in a state of 
feverish anxiety to learn what the policy of the new Presi- 
dent was to be." 

Although Lincoln met the appalling events which preceded 
his inauguration with an outward calm, which led many 
people to say that he did not realize the seriousness of the 
situation, he was keenly alive to the dangers of the country 
and to the difficulty of his own position. So full of threats 
and alarms had his life become by the time of his election 
that the mysticism of his nature was awakened, and he was 
the victim of an hallucination which he afterwards described 
to different friends, among them Noah Brooks, who tells the 
story in Lincoln's own words : 

It was just after my election in i860, when the news had 
been coming: in thick and fast all day and there had been a 


great " hurrah boys," so that I was well tired out and went 
home to rest, throwing myself down on a lounge in my 
chamber. Opposite where I lay was a bureau with a swing- 
ing glass upon it (and here he got up and placed furniture to 
illustrate the position), and looking in that glass, I saw 
myself reflected nearly at full length ; but my face, I noticed, 
had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of 
one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was 
a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in 
the glass, but the illusion vanished. On lying down again, I 
saw it a second time, plainer, if possible, than before; and 
then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler — say, 
five shades — than the other. I got up, and the thing melted 
away, and I went off, and in the excitement of the hour 
forgot all about it — nearly, but not quite, for the thing would 
once in a while come up, and give me a little pang, as if 
something uncomfortable had happened. When I went home 
again that night, I told my wife about it, and a few days 
afterward I made the experiment again, when (with a 
laugh), sure enough! the thing came again; but I never 
succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I 
once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was 
somewhat worried about it. She thought it was a " sign " 
that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that 
the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not 
see life through the last term. 

Of far deeper significance than this touch of superstition 
is a look into the man's heart which Judge Gillespie, a life- 
long friend of Lincoln, left, and which his daughter, Mrs. 
Josephine Gillespie Prickett, of Edwardsville, Illinois, has 
kindly put at my service. Early in January, Judge Gillespie 
was in Springfield, and spent the night at Mr. Lincoln's 
home. It was late before the President-elect was free, and 
then the two men seated themselves by the fire for a talk. 

" I attempted," says Judge Gillespie, " to draw him into 
conversation relating to the past, hoping to divert him from 
the thoughts which were evidently distracting him. ' Yes, 


yes, I remember/ he would say to my references to old scenes 
and associations ; but the old-time zest was not only lacking, 
but in its place was a gloom and despondency entirely foreign 
to Lincoln's character as I had learned to know it. I 
attributed much of this to his changed surroundings. He 
sat with his head lying upon his arms, which were folded 
over the back of his chair, as I had often seen him sit on our 
travels after an exciting day in court. Suddenly he roused 
himself. * Gillespie/ said he, ' I would willingly take out of 
my life a period in years equal to the two months which 
intervene between now and my inauguration to take the oath 
of office now.' ' Why ? ' I asked. ' Because every hour 
adds to the difficulties I am called upon to meet, and the 
present administration does nothing to check the tendency 
toward dissolution. I, who have been called to meet this 
awful responsibility, am compelled to remain here, doing 
nothing to avert it or lessen its force when it comes to me/ 

" I said that the condition of which he spoke was such as 
had never risen before, and that it might lead to the amend- 
ment of such an obvious defect in the federal Constitution. 
6 It is not of myself I complain,' he said, with more bitterness 
than I ever heard him speak, before or after. ' But every 
day adds to the difficulty of the situation, and makes the 
outlook more gloomy. Secession is being fostered rather 
than repressed, and if the doctrine meets with a general 
acceptance in the border States, it will be a great blow to the 

" Our talk then turned upon the possibility of avoiding a 
war. * It is only possible/ said Mr. Lincoln, ' upon the 
consent of this government to the erection of a foreign slave 
government out of the present slave States. I see the duty 
devolving upon me. I have read, upon my knees, the story 
of Gethsemane, where the Son of God prayed in vain that the 
cup of bitterness might pass from him. I am in the garden 
of Gethsemane now, and my cup of bitterness is full and 

" I then told him that as Christ s prayer was not answered 
and his crucifixion had redeemed the great part of the world 
from paganism to Christianity, so the sacrifice demanded of 
him might be a great beneficence. Little did I then think 


how prophetic were my words to be, or what a great sacrifice 
he was called to make. 

" I trust and believe that that night, before I let him go, I 
shed some rays of sunlight into that troubled heart. Ere 
long he came to talk of scenes and incidents in which he had 
taken part, and to laugh over my reminders of some of our 
professional experiences. When I retired, it was the master 
of the house and chosen ruler of the country who saw me to 
my room. ' Joe/ he said, as he was about to leave me, ' I 
suppose you will never forget that trial down in Montgomery 
County, where the lawyer associated with you gave away the 
whole case in his opening speech. I saw you signaling to 
him, but you couldn't stop him. Now, that's just the way 
with me and Buchanan. He is giving away the case, and I 
have nothing to say, and can't stop him. Good-night/ " 

But the time for going to Washington was drawing near. 
There had been considerable discussion about when he had 
better go. So many threats had been made and so many 
rumors were in the air, that the party leaders had begun to 
feel, as early as December, that the President-elect might 
never get to Washington alive. Even Seward, optimist as 
he was, felt that precautions had better be taken, and he 
wrote Lincoln, from Washington, on December 28: 

There is a feverish excitement here which awakens all 
kinds of apprehensions of popular disturbance and disorders, 
connected with your assumption of the government. 

I do not entertain these apprehensions myself. But it is 
worth consideration, in our peculiar circumstances, that 
accidents themselves may aggravate opinion here. Habit 
has accustomed the public to anticipate the arrival of the 
President-elect in this city about the middle of February ; and 
evil-minded persons would expect to organize the demon- 
strations for that time. I beg leave to suggest whether it 
would not be well for you, keeping your own counsel, to be 
prepared to drop into the city a week or ten days earlier. 
The effect would be, probably, reassuring and soothing. 


Mr. Lincoln replied : 

I have been considering your suggestions as to my reach- 
ing Washington somewhat earlier than is usual. It seems to 
me the inauguration is not the most dangerous point for us. 
Our adversaries have us now clearly at disadvantage. On 
the second Wednesday of February, when the votes should 
be officially counted, if the two Houses refuse to meet at 
all, or meet without a quorum of each, where shall we be ? I 
do not think that this counting is constitutionally essential 
to the election ; but how are we to proceed in absence of it ? 

In view of this, I think it best for me not to attempt 
appearing in Washington till the result of that ceremony is 

The peace of the capital was, however, in good hands. 
General Scott, the general in command of the army, had, 
even before the election, seen the trouble coming, and had 
pleaded with the administration to dispose of the United 
States forces in such a way as to protect threatened property. 
Early in January, he succeeded in securing a guard for 
Washington. The fear that the electoral vote would never 
be counted partially subsided then, and Lincoln announced 
that he would leave Springfield on February u. 

The fortnight before his departure he gave to settling up 
his private business and saying good-by to his old friends. 
His stepmother was still living near Charleston, in Coles 
County, and thither he went to spend a day with her and to 
visit his father's grave. The comfort and happiness of his 
stepmother had been one of his cares from the time he began 
to be self-supporting, and in this farewell visit he assured 
himself that her future was provided for. Mrs. Lincoln, who 
was now a very old woman and might naturally doubt 
whether she would live to see her son again, was not con- 
cerned about herself at this time. The threats which pursued 
Lincoln had reached her, and in bidding him good-by, she 
sobbed out her belief that she would never see him again; 


From a photograph in possession of her granddaughter, Mrs. Harriet 
Chapman, of Charleston, 111. Sarah Bush was born in Kentucky, 
December 13, 1788. She was a friend of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy 
Hanks, and it is said that Thomas Lincoln had been her suitor before 
she married Daniel Johnston. Her husband died in October, 1818. 
In November, 1819, Thomas Lincoln sought her a second time in mar- 
riage. She was in debt, and the fact caused her to hesitate ; but her 
suitor redeemed all her paper, and presented it to her with renewed 
protestations of affection. He was convinced that a woman with her 
honor about debts would make him a good wife. There is no question 
that as Thomas Lincoln's wife she exerted a remarkable influence upon 
his household, and with her dignity and kindliness played a large part 
in the development of her step-son, Abraham. She died on the 10th 
of December, 1869, at the old homestead in Coles County, Illinois. 


that his life would be taken. This same fear was expressed 
by many of Lincoln's early friends who came to Springfield 
to say good-by to him. 

In the multitude of partings which took place in these last 
days none was more characteristic than that with his law 
partner, Herndon. The day before his departure, Mr. Lin- 
coln went to the ofhce to settle some unfinished business. 

"After those things were all disposed of," writes Mr. 
Herndon, " he crossed to the opposite side of the room and 
threw himself down on the old office sofa, which, after many 
years of service, had been moved against the wall for support. 
He lay for some moments, his face towards the ceiling, with- 
out either of us speaking. Presently he inquired, ' Billy ' — 
he always called me by that name — * how long have we been 
together ? ' ' Over sixteen years/ I answered. ' We've 
never had a cross word during all that time, have we?' . . . 
He gathered a bundle of papers and books he wished to take 
with him, and started to go ; but before leaving he made the 
strange request that the sign-board which swung on its rusty 
hinges at the foot of the stairway should remain. ' Let it 
hang there undisturbed,' he said, with a significant lowering 
of the voice. ' Give our clients to understand that the elec- 
tion of a president makes no change in the firm of Lincoln & 
Herndon. If I live, I am coming back some time, and then 
we'll go right on practising law as if nothing had happened.' 
He lingered for a moment, as if to take a last look at the old 
quarters, and then passed through the door into the narrow 

Herndon says that he never saw Lincoln more cheerful 
than on that day, and Judge Gillespie, who visited him a few 
days earlier, found him in excellent spirits. " I told him that 
I believed it would do him good to get down to Washing- 
ton." " I know it will," he replied. " I only wish I could 
have got there to lock the door before the horse was stolen. 
But when I get to the spot, I can find the tracks." 


Mr. Lincoln and his party were to leave Springfield by a 
special train at eight o'clock on Monday morning, February 
ii. And at precisely five minutes before eight o'clock, he 
was summoned from the dingy waiting-room of the station, 
Slowly working his way through the crowd of friends and 
townspeople that had gathered to bid him good-by, he 
mounted the platform of the car, and turning, stood looking 
down into the multitude of sad, friendly upturned faces. For 
a moment a strong emotion shook him ; then, removing his 
hat and lifting his hand to command silence, he spoke : 

My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my 
feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the 
kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived 
a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an 
old man. Here my children have been born and one is buried. 
I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may 
return, with a task before me greater than that which rested 
upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine 
Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that 
assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with 
me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us 
confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care 
commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will com- 
mend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell. * 

A sob went through the listening crowd as Mr. Lincoln's 
broken voice asked their prayers, and a choked exclamation, 
" We will do it ! We will do it ! " rose as he ceased to speak. 
Upon all who listened to him that morning his words pro- 
duced a deep impression. " I was only a lad of fourteen," 
says Mr. Lincoln Dubois, of Springfield, " but to this day I 
can recall almost the exact language of that speech." " We 
have known Mr. Lincoln for many years," wrote the editor 
of the " State Journal." " We have heard him speak upon a 

* The version of the farewell speech here used is that given by Nico« 
lay and Hay in their " Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln/' 


hundred different occasions ; but we never saw him so pro- 
foundly affected, nor did he ever utter an address which 
seemed to us so full of simple and touching eloquence, so 
exactly adapted to the occasion, so worthy of the man and the 
hour. Although it was raining fast when he began to speak, 
every hat was lifted and every head bent forward to catch 
the last words of the departing chief. When he said, with 
the earnestness of a sudden inspiration of feeling, that with 
God's help he should not fail, there was an uncontrollable 
burst of applause." 

The speech was of course telegraphed over the country, 
and though politicians sneered at it, the people were touched. 
He had appealed to one of their deepest convictions, the belief 
in a Providence whose help was given to those who sought 
it in prayer. The new President, they said to one another, 
Tvas not only a man who had struggled with life like common 
people ; he was a man who believed, as they did, in God, and 
Vvas not ashamed to ask the prayers of good men. 

The journey eastward through Illinois, which now began, 
Was full of incident. No better description of it was ever 
given than that of Thomas Ross, a brakeman on the presi- 
dential train. 

" The enthusiasm all along the line was intense. As we 
whirled through the country villages, we caught a cheer from 
the people and a glimpse of waving handkerchiefs and of hats 
tossed high into the air. Wherever we stopped there was 
a great rush to shake hands with Mr. Lincoln, though of 
course only a few could reach him. The crowds looked as if 
they included the whole population. There were women and 
children, there were young men, and there were old men 
with gray beards. It was soul-stirring to see these white- 
whiskered old fellows, many of whom had known Lincoln 
in his humbler days, join in the cheering, and hear them 
shout after him, ' Good-by, Abe. Stick to the Constitution, 
and we will stick to you.' It was my good fortune to stand 


beside Lincoln at each place at which he spoke — at Decatur, 
Tolono, and Danville. At the State line the train stopped 
for dinner. There was such a crowd that Lincoln could 
scarcely reach the dining-room. ' Gentlemen/ said he, as 
he surveyed the crowd, * if you will make me a little path, so 
that I can get through and get something to eat, I will make 
you a speech when I get back.' 

" I never knew where all the people came from. They 
were not only in the towns and villages, but many were along 
the track in the country, just to get a glimpse of the Presi- 
dent's train. I remember that, after passing Bement, we 
crossed a trestle, and I was greatly interested to see a man 
standing there with a shot-gun. As the train passed he pre- 
sented arms. I have often thought he was there, a volun- 
teer, to watch the trestle and to see that the President's train 
got over it in safety. As I have said, the people everywhere 
were wild. Everybody wanted to shake hands with Lincoln, 
and he would have to say : ' My friends, I would like to 
shake hands with all of you, but I can't do it/ At Danville 
I well remember seeing him thrust his long arm over several 
heads to shake hands with George Lawrence. Walter Whit- 
ney, the conductor, who went on to Indianapolis, told me 
when he got back that, after Lincoln got into a carriage, men 
got hold of the hubs and carried the vehicle for a whole block. 
At the State line, I left the train, and returned to Springfield, 
having passed the biggest day in my whole life." 

It was nearly five o'clock in the afternoon before the party 
reached Indianapolis, where they were to spend the night. 
An elaborate reception had been prepared, and here Mr. Lin- 
coln made his first speech. It was not long, but it contained 
a paragraph of vital importance. The discussion over the 
right of the government to coerce the South was at its height. 
Lincoln had never publicly expresssed himself on this point. 
In the Indianapolis speech he said : 

The words " coercion " and " invasion " are much used in 
these days, and often with some temper and hot blood. Let 
us make sure, if we can. that we do not misunderstand the 


meaning of those who use them. Let us get exact definitions 
of these words, not from dictionaries, but from the men 
themselves, who certainly deprecate the things they would 
represent by the use of words. What, then, is " coer- 
cion " ? What is " invasion " ? Would the marching of 
an army into South Carolina without the consent of her 
people, and with hostile intent toward them, be " inva- 
sion " ? I certainly think it would ; and it would be " coer- 
cion " also if the South Carolinians were forced to submit. 
But if the United States should merely hold and retake its 
own forts and other property, and collect the duties on 
foreign importations, or even withhold the mails from places 
where they were habitually violated, would any or all of 
these things be " invasion " or " coercion " ? Do our pro- 
fessed lovers of the Union, but who spitefully resolve that 
they will resist coercion and invasion, understand that such 
things as these on the part of the United States would be 
coercion or invasion of a State ? If so, their idea of means 
to preserve the object of their great affection would seem to 
be exceedingly thin and airy. If sick, the little pills of the 
homeopathist would be much too large for them to swallow. 
In their view, the Union as a family relation would seem to 
be no regular marriage, but rather a sort of " free-love " ar- 
rangement, to be maintained only on " passional attraction." 

The speech was warmly applauded by the Republican 
press. It was the sign they had been seeking from Mr. Lin- 
coln. But to the advocates of compromise it was a bitter 
message. " The bells of St. Germain l'Auxerrois have at 
length tolled forth the signal for massacre and bloodshed by 
the incoming administration," said the New York "Herald." 

A long public reception in the evening, a breakfast the next 
morning with the Governor of the State, another reception at 
the hotel, and then, at ten o'clock on the morning of the 12th, 
Mr. Lincoln's party left Indianapolis for Cincinnati. Several 
of the friends who had come from Springfield left Mr. Lin- 
coln at Indianapolis, but others joined him, and the train was 


as full of life and interest as it had been the day before. 
There was, too, the same succession of decorated, cheering 
towns; the same eager desire to see and hear the President at 
every station. At Cincinnati, where the second night was 
spent and where a magnificent reception was given him, Lin- 
coln made two brief addresses. In that to the Mayor and 
citizens he was particularly happy : 

" I have spoken but once before this in Cincinnati," he 
said. " That was a year previous to the late presidential 
election. On that occasion, in a playful manner, but with 
sincere words, I addressed much of what I said to the Ken- 
tuckians. I gave my opinion that we as Republicans would 
ultimately beat them as Democrats, but that they could post- 
pone that result longer by nominating Senator Douglas for 
the presidency than they could in any other way. They did 
not, in any true sense of the word, nominate Mr. Douglas, 
and the result has come certainly as soon as ever I expected. 
I also told them how I expected they would be treated after 
they should have been beaten ; and I now wish to recall their 
attention to what I then said upon that subject. I then said, 
' When we do as we say— beat you — you perhaps want to 
know what we will do with you. I will tell you, so far as I 
am authorized to speak for the opposition, what we mean to 
do with you. We mean to treat you, as near as we possibly 
can, as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison treated you. 
We mean to leave you alone, and in no way interfere with 
your institutions ; to abide by all and every compromise of 
the Constitution ; and, in a word, coming back to the original 
proposition, to treat you, so far as degenerate men — if we 
have degenerated — may, according to the examples of those 
noble fathers, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. We 
mean to remember that you are as good as we ; that there is 
no difference between us other than the difference of circum- 
stances. We mean to recognize and bear in mind always 
that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, 
or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly.' 

" Fellow-citizens of Kentucky ! — friends ! — brethren ! may 
I call you in my new position ? I see no occasion, and feel no 


inclination, to retract a word of this. If it shall not be made 
good, be assured the fault shall not be mine." 

These conciliatory remarks were received with great en- 
thusiasm, the crowd rushing at him as soon as he had fin- 
ished, patting him on the back, and almost wrenching his 
arms off in their efforts at showing their approval. 

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Lincoln left Cincinnati for 
Columbus. Although few stops were made, he was kept 
busy receiving the committees and politician? who boarded 
the train here and there, and who were indefatigable in their 
efforts to draw from him some expression of his views. Mr. 
Lincoln felt that to answer their questions would be the 
gravest indiscretion, and he resorted to stories and jests in 
his efforts not to commit himself or offend his visitors. The 
reports of his " levity," as more than one felt this practice to 
be, were telegraphed over the country and bitterly com- 
mented upon by a large part of the press. So far, however, 
as the stories Mr. Lincoln told on his journey have come to 
us, they contain quite as much political wisdom as a sober 
dissertation could have contained. Thus there was a great 
deal of discussion en route about the possibility of reconciling 
the Northern and Southern Democrats. Mr. Lincoln was 
appealed to. " Well," he said, " I once knew a good sound 
churchman called Brown, who was on a committee to erect a 
bridge over a very dangerous and rapid river. Several 
engineers had failed, and at last Brown said he had a friend 
Jones, who, he believed, could build the bridge. Jones was 
accordingly summoned. ' Can you build this bridge ? 
asked the committee. ' Yes/ replied Jones ; ' I could build a 
bridge to the infernal regions if necessary/ The committee 
was horrified; but after Jones had retired, Brown said 
thoughtfully, ' I know Jones so well, and he is so honest a 
man and so good a builder, that if he says he can build a 


bridge to Hades, why, I believe it; but I have my doubts 
about the abutments on the infernal side.' So," said Lin- 
coln, " when politicians say they can harmonize the Northern 
and Southern wings of the Democracy, v. T hy, I believe them, 
but I have my doubts about the abutments on the Southern 

At Columbus, the brilliant receptions of Indianapolis and 
Cincinnati were repeated, and here Mr. Lincoln addressed 
briefly the State Legislature. One clause of his remarks 
proved to be most unfortunate : 

Allusion has been made to the interest felt in relation to 
the policy of the new administration. In this I have received 
from some a degree of credit for having kept silence, and 
from others some depreciation. I still think that I was 
right. . . . 

In the varying and repeatedly shifting scenes of the pres- 
ent, and without a precedent which could enable me to judge 
by the past, it has seemed fitting that, before speaking upon 
the difficulties of the country, I should have gained a view of 
the whole field, being at liberty to modify and change the 
course of policy as future events may make a change neces- 

I have not maintained silence from any want of real anx- 
iety. It is a good thing that there is no more than anxiety, 
for there is nothing going wrong. It is a consoling circum- 
stance that when we look out there is nothing that really 
hurts anybody. We entertain different views upon political 
questions, but nobody is suffering anything. This is a most 
consoling circumstance, and from it we may conclude that 
all we want is time, patience, and a reliance on that God who 
has never forsaken this people. 

A hostile press took the phrases " there is nothing going 
wrong " — " there is nothing that really hurts anybody " — 
" nobody is suffering anything," and used them apart from 
the context, to prove that the President-elect did not grasp 


the situation. At Newark, New Jersey, a week later, just be- 
fore the presidential party passed through, a poster appeared 
in the town quoting these sentences and calling on the unem- 
ployed to meet at the station when Mr. Lincoln's train ar- 
rived and show the President that " they emphatically dif- 
fered from these sentiments." Nothing came of this attempt 
to create a disturbance. 

On Thursday morning, February 14, the presidential 
party was again en route, this time bound for Pittsburg. 
Lincoln must have made this journey with a lighter heart 
than that of the day before, for the danger that the count- 
ing of the electoral vote would be interfered with, was now 
over. The night before at Columbus, he had received a tele- 
gram which read : " The votes have been peaceably counted. 
You are elected." The ceremony had passed off without in- 

At Pittsburg, where the night of the 14th was spent, the 
President spoke to an immense crowd, and as the issue in 
Pennsylvania had been so largely protection, it was to that 
doctrine that he gave his chief attention. Nothing could 
have pleased the Iron City better. The people were so wild 
with enthusiasm that it took the combined efforts of the po- 
lice and militia to get the presidential party on the train and 
out of town. 

From the hour that Lincoln's coercion remarks at Indian- 
apolis reached the country, he had received telegraphic con- 
gratulations and remonstrances at almost every stop of the 
train. The remarks at Columbus produced a similar result, 
and he seems to have concluded at this point to make his fu- 
ture speeches more general. At Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany, 
and New York there was nothing in what he said that his 
enemies could fasten on. His journey from Pittsburg east- 
ward was in no way different from what it had been pre- 
viously. There were the same crowds of people at every 


station, the same booming of cannon, gifts of flowers, recep 
tions at hotels, breakfasts, dinners, and luncheons with local 
magnates. All along the route in the East, as in the West, 
the people were out; everywhere there were flags and ban- 
ners and mottoes. The party in the train continued to 
change as it had done, committees and " leading citizens " 
replacing each other in rapid succession. None of these 
accessions aroused more interest among the other members 
of the party than Horace Greeley, who appeared unexpect- 
edly at Girard, Ohio, bag and blankets in hand, and after 
a ride of twenty miles with Mr. Lincoln, departed. 

At Buffalo, where Mr. Lincoln spoke on Saturday, the 
1 6th, a bit of variety was infused into the celebration by the 
fulfilment of an election wager. The loser was to saw a cord 
of wood in front of the American House and present it to 
the poorest negro to be found. He accordingly appeared 
with a wagon-load of cord- wood just before Mr. Lincoln 
began his speech from the hotel balcony, and during the ad- 
dress sawed vigorously. 

The journey through New York State, with the elaborate 
ceremonies at Albany and New York City, occupied three 
days, and it was not until the evening of February 21 that 
Lincoln reached Philadelphia. The day had been a hard one. 
He had left New York early, had replied to greetings at Jer- 
sey City and again at Newark, had addressed both branches 
of the New Jersey Legislature at Trenton and gone through 
a formal dinner there, and now, though it was dark and cold, 
he was obliged to ride in state through the streets of Phila- 
delphia to his hotel, where hundreds of visitors soon were 
surging in to shake his hand. The hotel was still crowded 
with guests when he was summoned to the room of one of 
his party, Mr. Norman Judd. There he was introduced to 
Mr. Allan Pinkerton, who, as Mr. Judd explained, was a 
Chicago detective and had a story to lay before him. 


"Pinkerton informed me," said Mr. Lincoln afterwards, 
in relating the affair to Benson J. Lossing, " that a plan 
had been laid for my assassination, the exact time when I 
expected to go through Baltimore being publicly known. 
He was well informed as to the plan, but did not know that 
the conspirators would have pluck enough to execute it. He 
urged me to go right through with him to Washington that 
night. I did not like that. I had made engagements to visit 
Harrisburg, and go from there to Baltimore, and I resolved 
to do so. I could not believe that there was a plot to murder 
me. I made arrangements, however, with Mr. Judd for my 
return to Philadelphia the next night, if I should be con- 
vinced that there was danger in going through Baltimore. 
I told him that if I should meet at Harrisburg, as I had at 
other places, a delegation to go with me to the next place 
(then Baltimore), I should feel safe, and go on." 

Mr. Lincoln left Mr. Pinkerton, and started to his room, 
On the way he met Ward Lamon, also a member of his party, 
who introduced Frederick Seward, the son of the Senator. 
Mr. Seward, who relates this story in his life of his 
father, told Mr. Lincoln that he had a letter for him 
from his father. The letter informed Mr. Lincoln that Gen- 
eral Scott and Colonel Stone, the latter the officer command- 
ing the District of Columbia militia, had just received infor- 
mation which seemed to them convincing, that a plot existed 
in Baltimore to murder him on his way through that city. 
Mr. Seward besought the President to change his plan and 
go forward secretly. 

Mr. Lincoln read the note through twice slowly and 
thoughtfully ; then looked up, and said to Mr. Seward, " Do 
you know anything about the way this information was ob- 

No, Mr. Seward knew nothing. 

" Did you hear any names mentioned ? Did you, for in* 
stance, ever hear anything said about such a name as Pin* 



No, Mr. Seward had heard no names mentioned save 
those of General Scott and Colonel Stone. 

" I may as well tell why I ask," said Mr. Lincoln. " There 
were stories and rumors some time ago, before I left home, 
about people who were intending to do me a mischief. I 
never attached much importance to them — never wanted to 
believe any such thing. So I never would do anything about 
them in the way of taking precautions and the like. Some 
of my friends, though, thought differently — Judd and others 
— and, without my knowledge, they employed a detective to 
look into the matter. It seems he has occasionally reported 
what he found; and only to-day, since we arrived at this 
house, he brought this story, or something similar to it, about 
an attempt on my life in the confusion and hurly-burly of 
the reception at Baltimore." 

" Surely, Mr. Lincoln," said Mr. Seward, " that is a strong 
corroboration of the news I bring you." 

He smiled, and shook his head. " That is exactly why I 
was asking you about names. If different persons, not know- 
ing of each other's work, have been pursuing separate clews 
that led to the same result, why, then, it shows there must 
be something in it. But if this is only the same story, fil- 
tered through two channels, and reaching me in two ways, 
then that don't make it any stronger. Don't you see ? " 

After a little further discussion of the subject, Mr. Lin- 
coln rose and said : " Well, we haven't got to decide it to- 
night, anyway, and I see it is getting late. You need not 
think I will not consider it well. I shall think it over care- 
fully, and try to decide it right; and I will let you know in 
the morning." 

The next day was Washington's birthday. The hauling 
down of the Stars and Stripes in the South and the substi- 
tuting of State flags had stirred the North deeply. The day 
the first Palmetto Flag was raised in South Carolina, a new 


reverence for the national emblem was born in the North. 
The flag began to appear at every window, in every but- 
tonhole. On January 29 Kansas was admitted into the 
Union, without slavery, thus adding a new star to the thirty- 
three then in the field; and for raising the new flag thus 
made necessary, Washington's birthday became almost a 
universal choice. In Philadelphia, it was arranged that the 
new flag for Independence Hall be raised by Mr. Lincoln. 
The ceremony took place at seven o'clock in the morning. 
Mr. Lincoln's brief speech was one of the best received of all 
he made on the journey : 

I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing 
in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the 
patriotism, the devotion to principle from which sprang the 
institutions under which we live. You have kindly sug- 
gested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to 
our distracted country. I can say in return, sir, that all the 
political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I 
have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which 
originated in and were given to the world from this hall. I 
have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from 
the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. 
I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred 
by the men who assembled here and framed and adopted 
that Declaration. I have pondered over the toils that were 
endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved 
that independence. I have often inquired of myself what 
great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so 
long together. It was not the mere matter of separation of 
the colonies from the motherland, but that sentiment in the 
Declaration of Independence which gave liberty not alone 
to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for 
all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due 
time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all 
men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the 
sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. 
Now, my friends, can this country be saved on that basis? 


If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the 
world if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that 
principle, it will be truly awful But if this country cannot be 
saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I 
would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it. 
Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there is no 
need of bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. 
I am not in favor of such a course, and I may say in advance 
that there will be no bloodshed unless it is forced upon the 
government. The government will not use force, unless 
force is used against it. 

My friends, this is wholly an unprepared speech. I did not 
expect to be called on to say a word when I came here. I 
supposed I was merely to do something toward raising a 
flag. I may, therefore, have said something indiscreet. 
[Cries of " No, no/'] But I have said nothing but what I 
am willing to live by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty 
God, to die by. 

It was after returning from the flag-raising at Philadel- 
phia that Lincoln told his friends that he had decided to go 
on to Washington at whatever time they thought best after 
his only remaining engagement was filled; viz., to meet and 
address the Pennsylvania Legislature at Harrisburg that 
afternoon. The engagement was carried out, and late in 
the afternoon he was free. It had been arranged that he 
leave Harrisburg secretly at six o'clock in the evening with 
Colonel Lamon, the rest of his party to know nothing of his 
departure. But Mr. Lincoln did not like to go without at 
least informing his companions, and asked that they be 
called. " I reckon they'll laugh at us, Judd," he said, " but 
you had better get them together." Several of the party, 
when told of the project, opposed it violently, arguing that 
it would expose Mr. Lincoln to ridicule and to the charge of 
cowardice. He, however, answered that unless there was 
something besides ridicule to fear, he was disposed to carry 
out Mr. Tudd's plan. 


At six o'clock he left his hotel by a back door, bareheaded, 
a soft hat in his pocket, and entering a carriage, was driven 
to the station, where a car and engine, unlighted save for a 
headlight, awaited him. A few minutes after eleven o'clock, 
he was in Philadelphia, where the night train for Washing- 
ton was being held by order of the president of the road for 
an " important package." This package was delivered to 
the conductor as soon as it was known that Mr. Lincoln was 
on the train. At six o'clock the next morning, after an un- 
disturbed night, he was in Washington, where Mr. Wash- 
burne and Mr. Seward met him, and, with devout thanks- 
giving, conducted him to Willard's Hotel, there to remain 
until after the inauguration. 

There were still nine days before the inauguration, and 
nine busier days Mr. Lincoln had not spent since his elec- 
tion. He was obliged to make visits to President Buchanan, 
Congress and the Supreme Court, and under Mr. Seward's 
guidance, this was done at once. He received, too, great 
numbers of visitors, including many delegations and com- 
mittees. The Hon. James Harlan, of Iowa, at that time 
United States Senator, called on Mr. Lincoln on February 
23, the day of his arrival. " He was overwhelmed with 
callers," says Mr. Harlan. " The room in which he 
stood, the corridors and halls and stairs leading to it, were 
crowded full of people, each one, apparently, intent on ob- 
taining an opportunity to say a few words to him privately" 

It was in these few days before his inauguration that the 
great fight over the future Cabinet was made. As we have 
seen, Lincoln had made his selections, subject to events, be- 
fore he left Springfield. When he reached Washington he 
sought counsel on his proposed appointments from great 
numbers of the leading men of the country. If they did not 
come to him, he went to them. Thus ex-Senator Harlan, in 
an unpublished manuscrin* " Recollections of Abraham Lin- 


coin," tells how the President-elect sounded him on the Cabi- 
net. " A page came to me at my desk in the Senate Cham- 
ber," writes Mr. Harlan, " and said, ' The President-elect is 
in the President's room and wishes to see you.' I confess 
that I felt a little flurried by this announcement I had not 
been accustomed to being called in by Presidents of the 
United States ; hence, to gain a little time for self-composure, 
I said to the little page, ' How do you know that the Presi- 
dent-elect wishes to see me?' ' Oh,' said he, ' his messen- 
ger came to the door of the Senate Chamber, and sent me to 
tell you.' ' All right/ said I. * You may tell the President's 
messenger that I will call immediately,' which, of course, I 
did without the least delay. 

" I was received by the President in person, who, after the 
ordinary greetings, offered me a seat, and seated himself 
near me. No one else was in the room. He commenced the 
conversation, saying in a half-playful, half-serious tone and 
manner, ' I sent for you to tell me whom to appoint as mem- 
bers of my Cabinet.' I responded, saying, ' Mr. President, 
as that duty, under the Constitution, devolves, in the first 
instance, on the President, I have not given to the subject a 
serious thought ; I have no names to suggest, and expect to 
be satisfied with your selections.' He then said he had about 
concluded to nominate William H. Seward, of New York, as 
Secretary of State; Edward Bates, of Missouri, for Attor- 
ney-General; Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, for Secretary of 
the Interior ; Gideon Welles, of Connecticut, for Secretary of 
the Navy ; Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, for Postmaster- 
General; and that he thought he ought to appoint Simon 
Cameron, of Pennsylvania, and Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, 
for the remaining two places, but was in doubt which one to 
offer Mr. Cameron and would like to have me express my 
opinion frankly on the point. 

u ' Well/ said I. ' Mr. President, if that is the only ques- 


tion involved, I have not the slightest doubt that Mr. Chase 
ought to be made Secretary of the Treasury,' and then I pro- 
ceeded to mention, without hesitation or reserve, my reasons 
for this opinion. He thanked me cordially for my frankness. 
I took my leave. This interview lasted probably about ten or 
fifteen minutes." 

Not all of those with whom Mr. Lincoln talked about his 
Cabinet professed, like Senator Harlan, to be satisfied with 
his selections. Radical Republicans, mistrusting Seward's 
spirit of compromise, besought him to take Chase and drop 
Seward altogether. Conservatives, on the contrary, fear- 
ing Chase's implacable " no compromise " spirit, urged Lin- 
coln to omit him from the Cabinet Seward finally, on March 
2, probably thinking to force Lincoln's hand, withdrew his 
consent to take an appointment. He said later that he feared 
a " compound Cabinet " and did not wish to " hazard " him- 
self in the experiment. This action brought no immediate 
reply from Mr. Lincoln. He simply left Seward's name 
where he had placed it at the head of the slate. The struggle 
over Cameron's appointment, which had been going on for 
more than two months, now culminated in a desperate en- 
counter. The appointment of Blair was hotly contested. 
Caleb Smith's seat was disputed by Schuyler Colfax. In 
short, it was a day-and-night battle of the factions of the 
Republican party, which raged around Lincoln from the hour 
he appeared in Washington until the hour of his inaugura- 

In spite of all the arguments and threats from excited and 
earnest men, to which he listened candidly and patiently; 
Lincolh found himself, on the eve of his inauguration, with 
the Cabinet which he had selected four months before un- 
changed. This fact, had it been known, might have modified 
somewhat the opinion expressed generally at the time, that 
the new President would never be anything but the tool of 


Chase or Seward, or of whoever proved to be the strong man 
of his Cabinet — that is, if he was ever inaugurated. Of 
this last many had doubts, and even, at the last hour, were 
betting in the hotel corridors and streets of Washington that 
Abraham Lincoln would never be President of the United 

jo J.